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^ir 



THE 



PILLAES OF THE HOUSE; 



OR, 



UNDER WODE, UNDER RODE. 



VOL. II. 






> 



THK 



PILLARS OF THE HOUSE; 



OR, 



UNDER WODE, UNDER RODE. 



BY 



CHARLOTTE M. YONGE, 

AUTHOR OF 'THE HEIR OF REDCLYFFE,' ETC 



IN TWO VOLUMES. 



VOL II. 




HEW AND CHEAPER EDITION. 



Jjtanbon : 
MACMILLAN AND CO. 

1875. 



CONTENTS TO VOL II. 



PACK 



Family Ghools 


I 


Don Giovanni 


. 34 


Transmutation 


55 


Don or Mynheer . 


75 


Stars Gratis . . > . 


97 


Brynhild .... 


. 133 


The Sculptor .... 


154 


The Barbe Blonde 


172 


The Nid d*Avis 


193 


A Bootless Bene . 


. 217 


The Vicar of Vale Lestox . 


244 


The Old Squire and the New . 


271 


Possession .... 


304 


Invasions . 


• 336 


Jv. 1. . . . • • 


357 


Four Years 


. 399 


A K T Strophe 


. ' 422 


Chests and Hearts 


. 448 


A Halcyon Day 


471 


Princess Fair-Star 


• 491 


The Fiddler's Ranch. 


525 


The Myrtle Spray 


. 542 


Sour Grapes . 


561 


The Task over 


. 590 


Shati'ered Pillars 


624 


The Rival Owls . . 


. 652 


Conclusion .... 


681 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE; 

OR, 

UNDER WODE, UNDER RODE. 



CHAPTER XXIV. Chap. 

XXIV 

FAMILY GHOOLS. 

* Know ye that Love is a careless child, 

And forgets promise past ? 

He is blind — ^he is deaf where he list, 

And in faith never fast' 

Raleigh, 

Captain Harewood was gone. There was a good deal of truth in 
Wilmet's plea that much pain might have been saved if she had 
been allowed to abide by her first answer ; but by this time she 
would not have saved it. 

She was a brave woman, and never sought indulgence ; and all 
she accepted was the spending his last Saturday and Sunday at his 
home with him ; and even on this she durst not venture without 
taking Alda, and exposing the dear untidy household to her 
disdain ; but that October Sunday walk by the river was worth it 
all — ^worth infinitely more than the July walk; and they both 
declared it gave them strengtL 

Wiknet returned in time for Monday's school, nor did she give in 
all the week ; but she looked whiter and whiter, and on Saturday 
morning turned so faint while dressing, that Alda in a great fright 
called in Sibby i and the unprecedented event occurred of her 
If spending two whole days in bed. She only begged to be let alone ; 
and after this space of quiet came down again fully recovered, 
only, as Geraldine daily felt, softer, gentler, tenderer, less severely 
strict, and moreover a less hard mistress to her own beauty. 

VOL. II. B ^ 






THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXIV. 



Meantime Alda grew increasingly restless and drooping as the 
autumn advanced. The confined rooms and monotonous life really 
affected health accustomed to variety, change, and luxury; nor 
could idleness, disappointment, or ill-humour be wholesome diet. 
Listless and weary, she dropped all semblance of occupation, except 
novel reading ; and there she perversely set her mind on whatever 
Froggatt and Underwood wished to keep out of their library. If 
Ferdinand did not come down for a Sunday, they both looked at 
the end of it as if they had been worrying one another to death ; if 
he did not come down, she was affronted and miserable. Her 
restlessness was increased by the fact that people were returning to 
their winter-quarters in London, and it was to be inferred that the 
Thomas Underwoods might soon be there ; but Marilda had not 
the art of letter-writing, and though she had several times sent a 
few warm-hearted lines, encouraging Alda's correspondence, this 
had dropped soon after the yearly migration to Spa ; and no more 
was known of the family movements till there was a letter from 
Edgar to Cherry. He was a very uncertain correspondent — 
always delightful, affectionate, and amusing, when he did write, but 
often not doing so for weeks together; and nothing had been 
heard of him since he had as usual gone abroad in the middle 
of the summer. 

He now wrote from Spa, in amazement at the accumulation of 
family events which Marilda had poured upon him, and especially 
desirous to know how any captain of any service had ventured upon 
accosting W. W. He could not recover the loss it had been not 
to witness the siege and the surreader! For himself. Cherry 
gathered that he had begun, as he had led her to suppose he 
would, with the Channel Isles ; but whether he had seen Alice she 
could not make out ; and he had then made his way, wandering 
and sketching in old Continental towns, as he had done last year. 
. He always declared that it answered ; he could dispose of His 
sketches when he came home, and could likewise write clever bright 
descriptions, that could usually command tolerable remuneration. 
This time, however, he had been nearly reduced to the condition 
of George Primrose, and had made his way to join the family 
caravan at Spa, by way of getting helped home. 

There he was hailed with delight, for Mx. Underwood was very 



FAMIL Y GffOOLS. 



nnwell and irritable, prejudiced against German doctors, yet not 
choosing to have advice from England, and not fit for a journey 
^thout some effective person to rule him and his wife ; for resolute 
as Marilda could be, the passionateness of one parent, and the fat 
flabby helplessness of the other, had overcome her powers of 
management at such a distance from home. It was Edgar's private 
belief that * the poor old boy had had some kind of stroke ;* but he 
had recommended the homeward journey, and under his escort it 
was to be immediately undertaken. A few days more, and tidings 
came that it had been successfully accomplished. Mr. Underwood 
had grown better at every stage, and now scouted the notion of a 
doctor ; Alda's letters of inquiry were joyously answered and her 
spirits sank. 

One afternoon, however, a moon face beamed upon Felix, and 
a hearty voice exclaimed, * How d'y^ do ? This is a surprise, ain't 
it ? My father is come down on business, so I made him bring me. 
I don't like Alda's account of herself.' 

* 111 take you to her,' said Felix, who decidedly disapproved of 
private greetings in the present locality; so as soon as she had 
dealt witii her fly, he conducted her upstairs. Her father had gone 
to Mr. Bruce, and would. come for her. Alda was alone in the 
drawing-room, but she sprang to her feet in ecstacy ; and the two 
cou^s were soon clinging together, and devouring one another 
with kisses. Felix asked where Cherry was. 

* Oh ! for pity's sake, Felix, do let us have a little time to our- 
selves !' said Alda ; * I'll call Cherry by the time she has done with 
Stella.' 

Felix had come to trust nothing concerning Geraldine to Alda ; 
so he shut the door, and found Cherry in her own room, over- 
looking Stella's copy to the sound of Theodore's accordion, all 
three in warm jackets. Six months ago he would have made an 
authoritative remonstrance. Now he had learnt that cold and exile 
were more tolerable than Alda's displeasure. 

Stella leapt up, connecting Cousin Marilda's name with the 
choicest presents ; but Cherry was quite willing to withhold herself. 
It was eight years since she had seen Marilda, and she was conscious 
of more repulsion than attraction. She was still debating between 
civility and consideration for the tite-d-tetey when Wilmet, for whom 

]H 2 



Chap. 
XXIV. 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXIV. 



Felix had sent, came for her, with cheeks glowing from Marilda's 
energetic kisses and congratulations. 

There certainly was a treading on the delicate tips of the 
feeUngs. * O Geraldine, I am glad to see you getting about so 
well ! You are a courageous girl.' Then to Stella : * You Uttle 
darling duck I Here is a box of goodies for you and the. other 
poor little dear. — ^Where is he? You'll let me see him.-r-What, 
Lance ! I've not seen you since I found you up a tree !' 

The cousinly cordiality was pleasant, and her patronage was not 
coarse, Uke her mother's ; but there was a certain excess of 
frankness that made- them feel like sensitive-plants, when she 
examined Wilmet how often she Jieard from India, and how the 
Harewoods treated her — ^when she wanted to know exactly how 
matters stood between the Pursuivant and Tribune, whether Mr. 
Smith were to blame, why Lance had gone into the business, and 
— ^worse than all — what was the measure of Theodore's intellect 

It was all meant in kindness and sympathy, but it was very 
trying to each victim in turn; and the lookers-on found it as 
impossible to lead it away as to divert the rush from a pump. 
When Felix was about to return to his work, Marilda jumped up, 
exclaiming, * Felix, I must speak to you •' and when she had him 
alone in the drawing-room, she began, * Felix, I must take Alda 
home. We can't get on without her ; and she looks very poorly, 
and all that nonsense is blown over.' 

* You know she is still engaged.' 

* Oh yes ; but no one will think of that unless it is brought 
forward, and that she promises not to do.' 

* I believe it will be best,' he answered. ' Our life is not suited 
to her, and she is neither well nor happy ; but it is very kind of you.' 

* Kind to ourselves. If Wilmet had married at once we should 
never have got her back at all, and we want her sadly. I can help 
my father in some ways, but I can't amuse him as she can. You 
don't mind?' 

* Certainly not, if Mr. and Mrs. Underwood wish it,' said Felix, 
wondering how Alda made herself either amusing or useful ; * I 
suppose it is all right, and that they know how it stands.' 

* Of course they do. They will only be too glad to have her; 
and though it is better to say nothing about it just yet, very Ukely 



FAMIL Y GHOOLS, 



5 



it may end in his coming into our house, and being what Edgar 
might have been. How well he has behaved !' 

* So has some one else/ thought Felix, as he saw her glistening 
eye ; but he only answered, * He is an excellent fellow.* 

* Another thing, Fehx. This engagement of Edgar's — ^is it in 
earnest ?' 

* Yes r emphatically said Felix; *I trust so.' 

* You ! I should have thought nothing could be more foolish. 
Is she such a nice girl, then ?' 

He had had tir^e to recollect himself, and answered in his set 
manner, ' She is al* that could be wished ; and though of course 
there is a certain imprudence in the engagement, I can only wish 
to see Edgar persevere honourably in what he has undertaken.' 

* But wouldn't it be great misery?' 

* It might be,' said Felix ; * but it is not going to happen yet 
Of course, no one could have wished it to begin ; but having begun, 
he ought to go on.' 

* Of course ! I hate shilly-shally. My father would not believe 
there was anything in it But you are right, Felix ; it has done 
Edgar good. Somehow there's more purpose in him; and I 
believe he has worked more steadily this season. I am so glad 
you say she is a nice girl.' 

And Felix went down to his work happier than he had been for 
nearly a year. What loss to himself equalled the gain of such a 
report of Edgar ? 

Marilda insisted on being shown every comer of the house, and 
was evidently full of enjojrment, like a child let loose from school, 
talking at random, so as to draw on herself more than one 
remonstrance from Alda, who had perfectly recovered her good- 
humour, and was absolutely gracious to Cherry. 

About four o'clock came Thomas Underwood, embracing Alda 
like another daughter. * My poor child, you are not looking well.' 

* Not at all, papa,' said Marilda. * We will take her home, and 
set her up again.' 

* Ay, we will !' said her father. * It has been a pretty muddle 
altogether ; but there — well say no more about it. You'll come 
home, and be a wise girl.' 

* O Uncle, how kind you are !' cried Alda. 



Chap. 
XXIV. 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXIV, 



Wilmet and Cherry looked at each other in amaze. What might 
this mean ? How could Alda bear to be received back on such 
terms ? But they could say nothing ; indeed, they were scarcely 
seen till the greeting to Alda was over. Then, however, he made 
up for it by hearty kisses, for Which they were not prepared ; and 
Wilmet coloured crimson as she was again congratulated and 
rallied on her slyness in making the most of her time at Minsterham. 

The illness at Spa had told upon Thomas Underwood. He was 
still under fifty, but an elderly look and manner had come on him ; 
he walked feebly, and seemed to look to his daughter to help him 
out with purposes and recollections ; while towards Alda there was 
an almost imploring tenderness, as if she had carried away with her 
a good deal of the enjoyment of his life, which he hoped to bring 
back again with her. He did not even seem to like leaving her 
for the evening to pack up, but wanted her to come out to Gentry 
Park, and caught eagerly at Marilda*s proposal that Felix should 
come and spend the evening there. It was as if they were both 
afraid of their own dullness in the great uninhabited house ; and 
no doubt they would have caught at an invitation to share the 
family meaL Alda and Wilmet, for different reasons, sat in dread 
of Felix, in the reckless hospitality of the male heart, making such 
an offer; and in very truth, he was only withheld by certain 
authoritatively deprecating glances from those housewifely eyes. 

And let it be observed that Wilmet was right She could not 
have fed Mr. Underwood as would have suited him on such short 
notice, without a great deal more expense and personal exertion 
than would have been becoming ; and to his eyes, their ordinary 
fare would have seemed ostentation of neediness. 

Needy was exactly what the Underwoods had never been. It 
was not merely the effect of conscience and of resolution, but of 
Wilmet's more than ordinary power of method and adjustment, 
which had kept them from ever being behindhand, or in difficulties 
requiring external aid ; and it was this that had won them already 
respect that hardly belonged to their years. 

Thomas Underwood really respected Felix, as one who had 
never asked assistance from him, yet who had not declined what 
was offered in a friendly kinsman-like manner ; and besides, had 
more than once asserted — modestly indeed, but still asserted — ^an 



-^ 



FAMIL Y GHOOLS. 



independent will and way of his own, and shown that he was 
capable of carrying it out It was five years since Mr. Underwood's 
prediction that he would find the attempt keeping house for such a 
family an utter failure, and would have to fall back on help he 
had not deserved : and here he was, without having made one 
demand, a partner in the business, and with so small a fraction of 
the family apparent, that there was no air of oppression, no 
complaint, even though Thomas himself had returned on his hands 
both those of whom he had meant to relieve him. 

No wonder, then, that without intending it, his manner to Felix 
was not that of patron, but of equal — of kinsman to kinsman, not 
of rich man to struggling youth. And Felix, as he sat in the great 
handsome dining-room, could not help being amused at all the 
otate that had followed one man and his daughter for one dinner 
in their own house : the courses, and the silver, and the perplexing 
family of wine-glasses beside every plate, and all with the 
Underwood rood and its motto shining on him — ^whether on the 
servant's buttons, on the panels of the oak-wainscotted hall, and 
the very china from which he ate his dinner. 

Nothing interested Mr. Underwood more than the account of 
the visit to Vale Leston \ and warming up under the influence of 
dinner, he talked much of the old times there, and with much 
disparagement of the two present Fulberts ; but Felix was startled 
to find that he regarded himself as next in the succession. 

' If you could only have gone into the Church, Felix, I could 
have given you the Vicarage. Or is not one of your brothers to 
be a parson ?' 

* Yes, Sir — Clement,' said Felix, smiling, but feeling a sense of 
injury that revealed to him how much more he must be reckoning 
on the chances than he had supposed himself to be doing. As 
Alda said, wealth flowed to wealth \ and a little attention from 
Thomas to his cousins would easily turn the scale. 

At any rate, poverty did not suit Alda. She was a different 
creature now that her exile was coming to an end. 

* It had been like Portsmouth to Fanny Price,' said Geraldine, 
not greatly flattered by the overflow of benevolecce, which Wilmet 
accepted as the token of real afiection. 

What would she do about Ferdinand P' Wilmet ventured to ask. 



Chap. 
XXIV. 



8 



7HE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXIV. 



* He certainly must not call/ said Alda ; * that would never do ; 
but with Edgar's help it will be manageable enough. It will do 
the gentleman no harm to have a few difficulties in his way. I 
don't want him to feel his coming such a favour.' 

So Alda went ; and must it be owned, if there was more peace 
in the house, there was also a certain flatness after the incessant 
excitements of the former part of the year. At least so Geraldine 
felt, and hated herself for feeling, when the numbers had come 
down to ' the peace establishment,' and she had. no companions 
but Stella and Theodore through the greater part of the day. 
She had been recommended to walk, when the weather permitted, 
for half an hour every day ; and whenever it was possible, Felix 
contrived that he or Lance should be her companion ; but as the days 
shortened, and it became less easy to contrive this, the constitu- 
tional turns up and down the narrow garden were more dispiriting 
than sitting occupied upstahrs, especially when she viewed this 
distaste as frightful unthankfulness ; and even when one of the 
brothers took her out in the street, or to the * People's Park,' 
though she was happy with them, the wearisome sameness and dull 
ugliness of the town oppressed and wearied her ; and to be taken 
out by Wilmet on a Saturday was more wearing stilL Each 
brother was her devoted cavalier; but Wilmet, though* kind and 
considerate, made airing Cherry a secondary object ; and to be 
set upon a high chair in a shop, to see Wilmet bargain, was what 
she did not love. She might have admired to see Wilmet's perfect 
knowledge of articles and their value, and the manifest esteem in 
which that experience was held by the respectable tradesmen, who 
did not scruple to tell her that they had thought * this will just suit 
Miss Underwood ;' while her scorn and indignation at an encounter 
with a Cheap Jack were something rich. But though Cherry 
could describe such an expedition with humour that threw Felix 
and Lance into a convulsion of merriment, it was very wearisome 
to her; and the more she knew it ought to be instructive, the 
more it depressed her, and made her feel, as never before, the 
straitness of the family means. She longed wearily at times for 
the sight of something beautiful Edgar's descriptions came back 
on her with an almost sick longing. She had made much progress 
in drawing, but the want of criticism, instruction, or models, made 



FAMJL Y GHOOLS, 



her feel baffled \ and when her brothers and sisters admired most, 
she was most dissatisfied. Edgar's criticism alone was worth any- 
thing to her aesthetic sense, and gave her real assistance ; and his 
not coming home was a great loss to her art, as well as to her 
affection and intellect Those windows that he opened to her of 
all lovely scenes and forms in nature or art, his brilliant stories of 
artist society and foreign manners, could not be greatly missed as 
she lived her monotonous life, not without intellectual interest, for 
that came to her through the help she was able to render to Felix 
in his newspaper work, and the books she reviewed or discussed 
with him ; but it was not the living interest of actual communication 
at secondhand with that outer world, which looked so full of 
beauty, and of all that was bright and charming ; and then poor 
little Cherry applied to herself all the warnings about not loving 
the world. 

Her aspiring compositions and her studies in drawing she 
almost laid aside in a fit of hopeless disgust, and she applied her- 
self to what was less improving, but more immediately profitable. 
She and Lance took to the manufacture of Christmas cards, she 
taking the sentiment and he the comedy ; and what they produced 
by their joint efforts were pretty and clever enough to bring in an 
amount of pocket-money that was very agreeable to those who 
otherwise would have had no claim to any. 

The chief outer interest was, as usual, parish affairs. Mr. Bevan 
was too ill to come home ; but Mr. Mowbray Smith's resignation 
was accepted, and he was to go at the beginning of the new year, 
while his successor was reported to be elderly and wise. 

Another interest, that was not at all bad for Cherry, was stirred 
up by her brothers. There was an interminable family belonging 
to one of the printers, who died, leaving them in circumstances 
that somewhat parodied those of the Underwoods themselves ; and 
in which the example as well as the counsel of the young master 
was no doubt a great incentive and assistance to the pillars of the 
still humbler house. There was a perennial supply of *httle 
Lightfoots,' to fill the office elegantly termed printer's devil ; and 
the existing imp being taken young from school, FeUx had his 
education on his conscience, and asked Cherry to give )vni lessons 
after hours. She was at first desperately afraid of the boy, and | 



Chaf. 
XXIV. 



lO 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXIV. 



only accepted the work when she found that if she did not, Felix 
would impose it on himself ; but by-and-by she became enough 
interested, and enjoyed enough devotion from her pupil, to make 
the time she daily expended upon him not far from one of the 
pleasures of her life. 

So came on a winter of unusual bitterness ; and the holidays 
filled the house, bringing Bernard back under an entirely new 
phase. At Stoneborough he had discovered that it was some 
distinction to be an Underwood of Vale Leston, and his accession 
of dignity was enormous. He regarded the Nareses from a 
monstrous elevation ; and thus infinitely scandalized Angela, who 
had a great hatred of pretension, and whose laughter threatened to 
dissolve their mutual alliance, offensive and defensive. Their 
janglings were a novelty, and not a pleasant one ; and one bitter 
afternoon, when a sore throat had made Felix come up early from 
the shop, Cherry quite rejoiced that Bernard was reported to be 
reading downstairs. 

And there sat Felix by the fire, with Theodore at his feet, hum- 
ming in rivalry of the big kettle, which had just been brought in, 
and was soon followed by Lance, whistling as he came upstairs. 

* Look here !' and Angela, who, for her bane at Brompton, had 
her fiiU share of the family talent for caricature, showed him a 
likeness of Bernard strutting down the High Street, turning his 
back on certain figures ' in the distance \ and beneath was 
written — 

* There was a young Bear of Stoneborough, 
Who thought his gentility thorough ; 

To his townsfolk he said, 

" Snobs I I'll cut them all dead," 
This high-bred young Bear of Stoneborough.* 

* Capital, Angel T said Lance ; * but don't show it to him ; he*s 
a horrid Bear to poke fun at' 

* Oh, but he does get into such jolly rages !* 

* It is beyond being jolly,' said Lance. ' I did this once too often 
last holidays ; and I don't think he has got over it yet, though I 
promised never to do it again.' 

* The more reason I should,' said Angela, laughing sai^cily in 
his face, though both spoke under their breath. 



FAMILY GHOOLS, 



II 



* No/ said Lance. * Consider ! He is absurdly stuck up ; but 
anything to disgust him with the Nareses is good.' 

* I see no harm in Jem Nares/ said democratic Angela^ * I'll 
not have him cut ! give me my picture.' 

* No, I promised he should not be done again.' 

* Promise for yourself another time.' 

She snatched, and there was a sparring match. Lance held off 
with one hand, and with the other dashed her drawing into the fire, 
where it fell on the top of some black coals ; and as he relaxed his 
grasp, she sprang to rescue it. Felix looked up in time to see the 
kettle toppling over. He flung Theodore out of the way of the 
boiling stream that rushed from lid and spout as the whole de- 
scended on the hearth, amid cries from Angela and Theodore that 
brought all the others together ; nor could the little one be pacified, 
even though Wilmet ascertained that he had only been touched by 
one boiling drop. 

* But Felix r exclaimed Lance ; and they all turned. 

* Never mind,' he said, but with more of a contraction of the 
lips than a smile ; * only my neck and arm. Here, Lance, help 
me ;' presenting the end of his sleeve, and setting his teeth. 

The hasty vigorous pull, made in ignorance pn both sides, 
removed the coat j but Felix gave something between a gasp and a 
cry, tried to totter to a chair, and was caught by Clement as he 
fainted away ; so much to the terror of Lance, that in three minutes' 
space he had broken in on Mr. Rugg's dinner with a peremptory 
summons. By the time he crept into the room behind the doctor, 
he saw Felix on the sofa, white as a sheet, with closed eyes and 
drawn brow, Clement standing ready with a roll of wadding, and 
Wilmet, having more gently removed the shirtsleeve, regarding the 
injury with some perplexity, increased by the tearful Sibby's 
voluble counsels. 

She welcomed the arriyal with the anxious inquiry, * O Mr. Rugg ! 
I am so glad ! Should the cotton touch where the skin is broken ? 
—Here — inside his elbow and hand.' 

* Broken ! You have been tearing off the clothes, instead of 
cutting them I I thought you knew better. Miss Underwood.' 

' It was my own doing,' murmured FeUx, so faintly, that Mr. 
Rugg, with his usual roughness, scolded at his not having had 



Chap. 
XXIV, 



13 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXIV. 



some brandy at once, and then at there being none nearer than 
the Fortinbras Arms, whence Clement brought some in about the 
time that a grand butler would have taken to produce it. Felix 
choked at it like a child, but it brought back his strength ; and 
Wilmet and Clement were assistants too handy to give much 
occasion for scolding. The shoulder and chest had suffers! 
likewise, though partly protected by the flannel shirt 

On the patient asking how soon he might hope for the use of 
his arm, the gruflf answer was, * Not so soon as if you had not be- 
gun by tearing it to pieces. I can't tell. Depends on general 
health. May be three weeks, may be six, may be three months, 
before you get these places healed, if you trifle with them. Now 
111 stay and see you in bed, with this arm properly settled.* 

This was real kindness for a man in the middle of his dinner ; 
and Felix stood up, finding himself more shaken than he had 
expected, and commanded by acclamation to betake himself to 
Mr. Froggatt's bedroom. He chose, however, first to go into the 
next room, where Cherry had sunk down, trembling and overcome, 
and so hysterical that her utmost powers had been taxed to prevent 
herself from disturbing those who could be useful. 

* Here I am, all alive !' he said in a cheerful tone, that 
somehow had no solidity in it, and which she could hardly bear. 
* Why, Cherry, you poor little thing ! you have come by the worst 
of it!' 

* Don't, Felix ! Isn't it dreadfiil pain ?' 

* Not now ; I scarcely feel it Never mind. Cherry ; I'm all 
right now, only you will have to write those little fingers nearly 
off".' 

* Oh ! Felix, if Wilmet had been gone !' 

* She wouldn't be looking Gorgons at me now. Where's 
Angel ?' 

Angel had been seized by Robina, and forcibly withheld from 
flying out after the doctor ; and when assured that Lance was gone, 
she had dashed upstairs, and hidden herself in bed, so that Felix 
was obliged to go to sleep without seeing her. Remonstrate as he 
would, he was not allowed to get up the next morning. Mr. Rugg, 
who came very early, assured him that the speed of his recovery 
greatly depended on perfect stillness at first, and told him that he 



FAMIL y GHOOLS, 



13 



would feel the injury if he tried to move ; and Wilmet would not 
do anything but rejoice that he was compelled to submit to 
discipline that was so good for the cold, a much more real subject 
of anxiety. 

* I must not grumble/ he sighed, as the doctor shut the door ; 
* but I did not reckon on such a stupid disaster when I got two 
boys to look after everything/ 

* People will not mind for a few days/ 

^ I hope not Tell Lance to send Lamb up to me as soon as 
he comes in. And would Clem walk over to Marshlands ? or the 
Froggery will be in great commotion.' 

' Perhaps Robina will go too ; and they always like to have 
her.' 

* And Angel ? Poor child I I wish she would come.* 

' I'll send her. I want you to talk to her. She is such a 
perplexity.' 

* This was no fault of hers !' exclaimed Felix. 

' I don't know that Lance takes it on himself, and says it was 
just a squabble ; but that is sure to have been her fault' 

' I shall not go into that/ said FeUx. 

' It does seem a chance of making an impression, if you would 
try/ said Wilmet * Sibby says she was crying half the night, (you 
know she has to sleep in the nursery,) and you might get at her 
now. I don't know what to do with her. ' 

He looked up, astonished at this avowal, from her who had 
hitherto queened it so easily. 

* Look at this letter,' she proceeded. * I have been keeping it 
till you had time to think about it' 

He sighed, feeling, like many another head of the house, that 
time was swept away from home responsibihties, and indeed, that 
great girls needed a more experienced guide. The letter was the 
school character, speaking most highly of Robina, who had quite 
reconquered esteem. If she had not so much of any one talent 
as some of the others, she had excellent capacity, and studied in a 
business-like way, as one learning a profession ; so that she had 
von her promotion into the first ranks, among elder girls. 

But Angela was one of those who will not or cannot do anything 
tolerably except what they like ; and she had only two tastes — ^for 



CHAf. 

XXIV. 



14 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXIV. 



music and fun — except perhaps for churches. She was a puzzle 
to every one, by her eagerness for devout observances, and the 
very little good they seemed to do her, even by outrageous 
irreverence when the spirit of mischief was roused. Teachers 
detested her, but she was the idol of half the school All unclaimed 
misdeeds were laid to her share ; and in recklessness or generosity, 
she never troubled herself to disavow them, even when not her 
own. She was popularly believed to learn nothing but music, and 
even in that to use talent to save pains ; and she had a lead-like 
affinity to the bottom of her class, yet in the final examination she 
had surpassed far more diligent girls. 

Felix read, and puzzled himself, and did not refuse obedience 
when Wilmet insisted that he should * talk to Angela i though he 
was only too well aware that reproof was that paternal duty to 
which he was least adequate. First, however, he had time to 
despatch Robina and Clement on their mission to his partner, 
whose winter rheumatics had set in — to receive young Lamb, laden 
with a pile of letters and papers, and lastly, to be cooed over and 
stroked by Theodore, who curled himself up at his feet in that 
perfect serenity that his presence always infused. 

At last Angela came in on tip-toe, looking immensely tall and 
lank, with Clement's propensity for longitudinal growth, and the 
same infantine smallness of feature, and much less brilliant 
colouring than the others ; but while his hair was as closely cropped 
as if he were just out of a cell, hers was as long and as unmanage- 
able as herself; and she had moreover the beautiful large-pupilled, 
darkly-lashed, mischievous blue eyes that belonged to Edgar, only 
now their lids were swollen, and all the colour in her face centred 
in two great red patches beneath them — a scarlet garibaldi over a 
very old brown skirt, half-way up a long pair of grey legs, seeming 
to make the whole object more deplorable. 

' You poor Angel T exclaimed Felix, his heart more than ever 
melted ; * you look as if you had been crying all night. Why don't 
you come and give me a kiss ?* 

* I'll— I'll do anything you please, Felix, but I had rather not' 

* But I do please ! I want you,' said he, holding out his hand ; 
so that she was forced to come, touch his cheek with her lips, and 
submit to a far heartier kiss. * You are as cold as ice,' he added, 



FAMILY GHOOLS. 



X5 



tiying to capture the blue, chilly, long, sausage-like fingers, and 
warm them in his grasp. 

* No, don't ! it will only make my chilblains rage. Let me go, 
now youVe forgiven me for your own comfort.' 

* Forgiven you for my own comfort ! I don't want to forgive 
you — ' 

* Oh — h !' and the eyes disappeared, and the face puckered in 
unutterable woe. 

* I haven't anything to forgive you, Angel.' 

* Oh, that's worse 1 when I've hurt you so terribly !' 

* You didn't ; you never meant it. Of course I never blamed 
you.' 

* Then,' said Angel, trying to get away her other hand, * why did 
you send for me to row me, for I don't call that forgiving.' 

* I heard you were unhappy.' 

* And did you think it would make me any happier to see 
you lying there frowning with pain?' broke out Angela, with an 
angry sob. 

* If I frowned, it was not with pain, but because I don't know 
what to make of you.' 

*I don't want to be made anjrthing of!' she said pettishly. 
* Wilmet told me you wanted to talk to me. I suppose that meant 
she ordered you ! So now you've done it, let me go.' 

* My dear Angel, don't you see that I am just as anxious about 
you as Wilmet can be ? and when there is plainly something amiss — ' 

* Oh, it's old Ful and Fen's character of me, then?' 

* It is, Angela. Perhaps it does seem taking an unfair advantage 
of you to catch you now ; but you see I so seldom get a chance of 
a talk with any one ; and I must do the best I can for you, you 
poor little ones, who, I'm afraid, haven't even the faintest 
recollection of our father and mother to help you.' 

* I remember mamma, but after she was ill,' said Angela, 
probably trying not to be softened. * But I don't think that has 
much to do with it You and Wilmet mind us as much, or more, 
than most people's bom parents. Yes, Wilmet worrits twice as 
much as any rational mother does.' 

' That's the very thing. Angel ; parents can do the thing without 
worrying.* 



Chap. 
XXIV. 



I6 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXIV. 



* No, I didn't say you did/ said Angela ; ' you never did till this 
minute, and now you are druv to it / and she regarded him with a 
certain fellow-feeling so comical, that she nearly made him laugh, 
though he felt sad enough. 

* Have I neglected you then, Angel ?* 

* Oh no ; I think you do just as well as most fathers. You keep 
us all going,' said Angela, considering; ^and you look after us 
and set us a good example, as people say ; and isn't that all that 
fathers have to do ?' 

* My poor little sister ! you just show that I cannot be really 
like a father to you/ 

* Would a father do all the scolding ?* asked Angela in an odd 
voice. 

* If we still had our own, you would be coming to him to help 
you, and telling him freely what it is that makes things go wrong 
with you.' 

* I'm sure,' answered the girl, ' I'd just as soon tell you, Felix, if 
I only knew ; but there's only one thing that would do me any 
good, I believe.* 

' And that ?' 

* If I could only be a Trappist' 

* A what ?' 

* A Trappist, or one of those Sepolte nuns, that never see any- 
body, and can't talk to their relations. Oh! I wish I was old 
enough to turn Roman Catholic 1 and then wouldn't I go and cut 
ofif this horrible hair, that is the plague and torment of my life, and 
never be naughty again !' 

* AVhich do you want to be rid of most — ^your hair or your 
relations ?' asked Felix, half diverted, half dismayed and wholly 
at a loss. 

* But Angela had passed the boundary of earnest now, and went 
on more from the heart *If I could but be in a real strict 
nunnery, it would be so nice ! It would always be church. Oh I 
if church could but last always !' 

He was more puzzled than ever at the intent yearning look that 
had changed the face. * You could not keep up. It would lose 
effect,' he said. 

* I don't know. Lots of girls much better than I — ^Bobbie 



FAMILY GHOOLS. 



17 



herself^— don't like long services, and get tired, but I don't l*m 
safe then ; I'm happy altogether. I seem to get wings inside — I 
could go on singing for ever. I don't want to be bad; but the 
instant I go out, I can't live without fun ; and so they think me a 
horrid false hypocrite — ^but I'm not I Only unless I get shut up 
somewhere, I don't know what will become of me.' 

* You must try to make your life out of church suit your life in 
church,' said Felix, much puzzled how to answer. 

* I would, only I can't be half-and-half, and wishy-washy.' 

* I don't understand.' 

* Don't you ? Why, if I have fun, I like to have it real fun. I 
can't be always drawing it mild 1 It is no real fun if one is to be 
always thinking about who will be vexed, and what's ladyhke, and 
all that stuff !' ' 

* But that's what life in this world is made o£' 

* I know it is ; so I hate life in this world, unless one could just 
have no conscience at all ;' then, as she caught his anxious eye, 
she went on, trying to rattle, but with tears in her voice, and 
submitting to let him warm her hands all the time, ' Felix, you'd 
better let me go into a Sisterhood. It is the only chance for me ! 
Thinking about being a horrid governess makes me wicked. 
When I'm good I do long for a Sisterhood ; and when I'm bad I 
want to get some great rich duke to marry me, and let me have no 
end of horses, and go to the races and the opera — and I don't 
suppose he will ever come. And I ^yr^pose you are all too dull and 
tiresome to let me get to be a public singer ! No, don't tell me to 
put it out of my head, for it is what I should like best — best 
of all!' 

* Better than the duke ?' 

* Oh yes ! for I think he would be in the way — FeUx ! do let me 
be a Sister ! You see it is the only chance.' 

*I can't, Angel; they would not accept a Sister at your age.' 

* Then let me think about it really^ Felix. Promise that I may 
be when I am old enough.' 

* It is impossible to promise that ; but I do not think I am likely 
to hinder you, if you then wish it, and it seems right' 

^ I wish you would promise me. Look here, Felix,' and the eyes 
assumed a deep yearning expression ; * I always did think that if I 

VOL. II. C 



Chap. 
XXIV. 



i8 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXIV. 



had a dedication, like Clement, I could be as good as he is. But 
I don't think anything else would put the duke or the opera out 
of my head.' 

* My dear Angel/ and Felix's eyes grew soft too, * I could not 
wish anything better for you than to be such anotner as Sister 
Constance, but I do not know how you could be dedicated. Even 
Clement is not \ he could change his mind before he is three-and- 
twenty. It all depends on how he goes on.' 

* And if I go on well, will you let me look to it ?* 

* As far as may be right' 

^ Only then what is the use of my going to this school, if I am 
not to turn governess ? It only makes me worse.' 

* No, Angela. It would not be right to stop your educatioa 
You must have the means of maintaining yoursel£ It would be 
against my duty to hinder that And remember^ — some Sisterhoods 
require an endowment You would not wish to be a burthen. 
You may have to work to raise means for admission ; and if you 
are set to teach, you will need all you are learning now.' 

' May I think I am preparing f 

* Yes.' 

* I will, I will — I mean, I will try,' said Angela. * O Felix ! I do 
like you now I find you don't want me to be respectable. No, 
don't say something grave and prosy, for I do like you now ; and 
never mind about not being one's father, for I don't believe any- 
body could be better to me.' And she put her face down to his 
and kissed him as she used when she was a baby girl ; then ran 
away on thinking she heard some one coming. 

* So,' thought Felix, as he raised himself on his sound elbow, 
* the upshot of it is that I don't want her to be respectable 1 I hope 
to goodness she won't take to being like Tina — though I don't 
know why I should either ! Poor child I Fll write to Audley about 
her when I can. And here comes the dear little Cherry for her 
hard day's work.' 

With his dictation and superintendence, Geraldine was quite 
equal to the Pursuivant's Friday requirements ; and altogether this 
day of rest and leisure was welcome. The sisters were much 
less anxious about the sore throat than if it had been in the shop ! 
and indeed it was nearly well, and no obstacle to his being talked 



FAMILY GHOOLS, 



19 



to and amused, to the general enjoyment, in the rare pleasure of 
having him at their mercy. In the afternoon came a message — 
* The Miss Pearsons' love, and if she could leave Mr. Underwood, 
would Miss Underwood step up?* Such messages were not 
infrequent, and this was supposed to spring from a desire to know 
the particulars of the accident ; so that on her return Wilmet was 
greeted with the inquiry whether she was considered responsible 
for the tea-kettle's misbehaviour, since she had been kept in so 
long. 

* No,* said Wilmet, gravely. * Run away, litde ones !' 

Stella alone accepted the epithet ; but Wilmet was too much 
absorbed in her tidings to look about in the fire-lit twilight for 
further victims. 

* The Miss Pearsons are very much troubled by their letters from 
St Heliers,' she said. ' Alice Knevett is actually married.' 

*To Edgar?* Angela sprang up with a bound. *0h, what 

funr 

* No, indeed,' Wilmet replied in her most repressive tone. * It 
is to a Frenchman of the name of Tanneguy, in the wine trade.' 

' The abominable girl !' cried Angela at the top of her in- 
dignant voice, * A Frenchman ! I'll never believe in any one 
again.' 

* Yes, Angela,' said Wilmet ; * it is a lesson, indeed, of what 
tricks and subterfuges — ^ 

* Never mind that, Mettie,* disrespectfully broke in CheiTy, who 
had quietly moved a curtain so as to cast a shade over Felix's 
fece. * Tell us about it Who writes F 

Wilmet told that Major Knevett, in a storm of fury, had written 
to the aunts that the whole affair had been so secretly conducted, 
that neither he nor his wife had guessed at it until his daughter's 
sudden disappearance, only sending home a letter to announce her 
marriage to M. Achille Tanneguy, with whom she had embarked 
for Havre, and given an address at Pau, where her husband was 
concerned in a wine agency. Major Knevett had then found out 
that she had been in the constant habit of meeting this Tanneguy 
in the garden of their next neighbour, which joined to their own ; 
and that she had entirely eluded the vigilance of *her second 
mother,' who had, however, never ceased to warn and watch her ; | 

c 2 



Chap. 
XXIV 



20 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Ch\p, 
XXIV. 



but nothing had been capable of curing her of the coquetry and 
intrigue, with which in his passion he accused Bexley of inspiring 
her. 

* Too true/ The words were breathed on the back of a sigh 
suppressed with difficulty. 

* Nonsense, Felix,' said Wilmet ; * It was in her before, or she 
could not have so carried it on here. I am sure it had gone on at 
her horrible school !* 

* What has she done about Edgar?' asked Clement 

* The aunts doubt whether she has done anything. — Children, 
you ought to be getting ready for tea / then when Robin and 
Angel had obeyed this very broad hint — ' I would not say so before 
them, but they believe that there is a sort of excuse in the 
unhappiness of her home.' 

* Of course,' said an almost grateful voice from the pillow. 

* Ever since Edgar was there in the summer,' said Wilmet, * she 
has been doubly watched and teazed and scolded. Nothing she 
could do was right. The aunts heard from her last a fortnight ago, 
very miserable, and entreating them to believe that whatever might 
happen, she was driven to it by the unbearable wretchedness of 
home.' 

* Do you call that an excuse, Wilmet ?' exclaimed Clement. 
* Is the privilege of suffering to be made an excuse for 
treachery ?* 

* Much Clement knows of the privilege of suffering,' said Felix, 
low and quietly ; but Geraldine detected so much of that privilege 
in his voice, that she longed to clear the room for him ; but though 
she rose to set the example, and laid her hand on Clement's arm, 
there was no preventing his testimony from being delivered. 

* Personally I do not know it; but I do not understand Wilmefs 
lowering her standard to excuse disobedience and unfaithfulness.' 

* Come along, Clem,' entreated Geraldine ; * it is all most sad 
and grievous, but the more we say about it the worse we make it ;' 
and she succeeded in dragging him out without a defensive reply 
from Wilmet. 

Presently she was sought out by Wilmet herself, to say, * Cherry, 
do you know, there's Felix looking as pale as when he fainted 
yesterday.' 



FAMILY GHOOLS. 



Xi 



She could believe it ; but she only ventured to ask, * Did he say 
anything ?* 

* No, only to answer " No," when I asked if I hurt him as I was 
^Vr^his ann. Cherry, can you tell me, or do you know— does 
this toach him for himself?' 

Cherry could only look up with eyes swimming. 

* How blind I have been 1 Oh ! if I had not come and told it 
so abruptly, before every one !' 

* Perhaps he liked the unconsciousness better ! ' 

* Were you in his confidence, or is it guess ?* 

* Guessing at first ; but we had a very few words about it when 
he came home from consulting Dr. Lee last summer.' 

* Then it was that wretched child that hurt his health F 

* So we thought Dr. Lee asked him if there was not something 
on his mind.' 

* The little wretch I Oh ! if I had never asked her here ! she has 
done more harm than she is worth 1' 

* He had got quite well,' said Cherry ; * and now he has his 
cough back again. O Mettie !' 

* No,' said Wilmet, * it is not that cough. It is only a chance 
cold ; it is nearly gone. Besides, it cannot be the same as her first 
treason to him must have been.' 

* That's true,' said Cherry, mournfully. 

* After all,' said Wilmet, * it /j a happy escape for both our boys, 
if they can but feel it, poor fellows — ^but oh ! to have been so 
deceived. And how ignorant one is — even living in the same 
house r And Wilmet had a hearty fit of crying. 

* And Edgar I' sighed Cherry. 

* You mu3t write. They all come to you, Cherry,' she added 
wistfiilly. * You shall sit with dear Felix this evening, and I will 
keep the others away.' 

This ordinance was carried out, but with no result as to con- 
versation ; for Felix's distress took the form of great tenderness as 
to the manner in which the blow was to fall upon Edgar. Nothing 
would satisfy him but Geraldine's writing immediately, under his 
own eye. Of course he ascribed all his own feelings to his brother ; 
and though Cherry doubted, and could have written much better as 
from herself, she could but patiently write and re-write, when poor 



Chap. 
XXIV. 



B2 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXIV. 



Felix found — ^as he did with everything that cost him consideration 
—that he was falling into his leading-article style ; while all the 
time she saw him becoming more excited and flushed, till at last 
Wilmet came in, put an end to it, and sent her to bed, almost 
brokenhearted for both brothers, and struggling against her own 
hatred to the mischievous little witch who had played with their 
hearts. 

She took care that the letter should go by the earUest post, partly 
to ensure Edgar's getting it without the Sunday's delay, but still 
more that it might not be within Felix's power to recall for two 
whole days. He just inquired after it, and finding it was gone, 
said no more. He was not so anxious to get up as the day before ; 
his arm had come to a more painful stage, and he had had a feverish 
sleepless night ; so that he looked so worn and depressed, that Mr. 
Rugg concluded that he had been imprudent, and scolded him 
accordingly. 

When Geraldine came in to put the finishing strokes to the 
Pursuivant, she found him so silent and dreamy, that she did nearly 
the whole on her own responsibility; till at last he suddenly 
roused himself, begged her pardon, and gave his whole mind to the 
dictation of the political summary ; then became dreamy again, 
and presently fell into a long sound sleep, after which he looked, 
even to the anxious eyes of his sisters, much better, and began to 
talk of getting up for the evening. 

At about five o'clock, just as Wilmet was la)dng his things ready 
for him, the door was opened, and there entered first a perfume of 
tobacco, the next a lively voice — * What, Blunderbore, l)dng in state 
in Froggy's four-poster ! Whom have you been getting into hot 
water with ? Is there much the matter ?* he added in a lower tone, 
as Wilmet kissed him. 

* Not much,' said Felix ; * it is nothing but a scald in a disabling 
place on my arm.* 

* The tea-kettle ought to know its friends better. I met Jem 
Bruce and heard of it, so I ran down to see how much of you was 
boiled. I looked into the shop, but Master Lance was too 
important to vouchsafe me a word. Are you sure it is only your 
arm, old fellow ? you look baddish.' 

* I'm well enough,' said Felix, shifting his head into the shadow 



FAMILY GffOOLS. 



23 



of the curtain ; and Wilmet, perceiving that he wished to have it 
out at once, left them together. '£dgar, do you know?' said 
Fehx, earnestly. 

' I scent a crisis in the air, and am doubting whether the 
Pursuivant is up a tree, or Wilmet's engineer turned out no go.' 

* You have not had Cherry's letter?' 

* No. Don't torment yourself to beat about the bush. I'd 
stand anything rather than see you look like that' 

* Have you heard from Jersey ?' 

* Oh ! It is that, is it ? I believe it has lasted twelve calendar 
months, and that is as much as is reasonable to expect Little 
humbugging puss ! What has she taken up with ?' 

' Had you no idea% that she had fallen in with — ^with a 
Frenchman ?' 

* The beggar 1 How far has it gone ? or is it only a report from 
the old cats of aunts ?' 

* It is too certain.' 

' Well, what is it ? I suppose she hardly commissioned you to 
give me my congk ? ' 

' I fear that she commissioned no one. Harsh treatment seems 
to have driven her to desperation. She was married privately, 
and has written from France to announce it' 

Edgar gave a long whistle, then turned round and laid his hand 
on his brother's, saying with a short laugh, * Cool and easy ! Well, 
it was pretty sport ; and this conclusion is unique for simplicity 
and saving of trouble. Dear old Fee, here's that pulse of yours 
going like a young lady's in a field with a mad bull. Have you 
been working yourself up all day to expect me to hang* myself, or 
shoot the frog-eater? Didn't I always tell you that only the 
ancient chivalry of the Pursuivant could take the affair au grand 
skneuxV 

* Very well,' said Felix in a somewhat smothered voice, * it is 
your af&ir, and I must accept modem customs. I am glad you 
understood one another so well' 

* Spoken with grave irony worthy of the heavy father, your 
laudable model Dear old chap, you'll be better now.' 

There was something strange in the half-reverent, half-pitjring 
tone of the tall powerful young man, as, with a sneer on his 



Chap. 
XXIV. 



24 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXIV. 



curling lip, but a tear in his softened eye, he stooped, pushed back 
the fair hair, and kissed the face which in its wistfulness looked 
younger than his own (having moreover the hirsuteness of only 
two days instead of two years). 

Felix fulfilled his intention of getting up, though he went no 
farther than his own fire-side, where soon after tea he was joined 
by Clement, looking very serious, and armed with Bible, Prayer- 
book, and copy-book. He was to take Felix's Sunday class the 
next day ; but whereas he had done so for the two months of the 
Ewmouth visit in the summer, there seemed no special necessity for 
a consultation, which in fact proved to be a rehearsal of the 
morrow's lesson, with various instructions to Felix himself, on 
what Clement called * Church Teaching,' in oblivion that the 
simple truths of religion are as much Church teaching as the 
distinctive doctrines of his own set 

As vehement laughter pealed across the passage, Felix ventured 
to suggest that something was going on there. 

* Yes,' said Clement ; * they were beginning some game, but I 
distrust Edgar's wit' 

* I don't think holding aloof always good.' 

* When one's presence is a stimulus to irreverence?' 

* Because you present yourself as a butt, instead of laughing 
with him, and giving things a turn.' 

* Impossible, where one feels deeply.' 

Felix believed it was impossible in the present case, and re- 
signed himself, though pricking up his ears at the ripples of mirth 
and the shrieks of ecstatic uncontrollable laughter that reached his 
ear ; until at last Lance burst in, laughing so that he could hardly 
stand upright, and bringing a paper in his hand for Felix's benefit 

It had been the game of adjectives, and Edgar, the conductor, 
had audaciously made its firamework the Pursuivant's report of the 
valedictory sermon that Mr. Mowbray Smith was to preach on the 
morrow. It was a most comical combination, so well had Edgar's 
outline hit off the editor's desire to make the best of it, coupled 
with personalities that neither Mr. Smith would have preached nor 
he reported unless they had been in the palace of truth ; the whole 
rendered the more grotesque by the hap-hazard adjectives that 
seasoned the discourse, sometimes deliciously inapposite, some* 



FAMILY GHOOLS. 



2S 



times fantastically appropriate. An audience had stolen behind 
Lance to taste its sweets a second time ; .and the drollery, the 
vrcusemblance, and touches of malice, quite choked him as he read, 
and overpowered Felix with mirth, all the more at the shocked 
countenance that Clement preserved throughout, while in the back- 
ground there was a renewed chuckling, roaring, and rolling, at the 
more brilliant sallies. 

The whole family had been viewing Edgar with more or less of 
awe, pity, and curiosity, as an injured hero, but had been beguiled 
into the maddest mirth, though as much disgusted with themselves 
for giggling as with him for making them giggle. Wilmet herself had 
succumbed, and Cherry had been in an almost hysterical transport 
of laughter, till her jaws ached, and her eyes were weak ; and she 
was so exhausted that she could hardly crawl into Felix's room to 
wish him good-night, and then scarcely durst speak to him lest she 
should burst into tears ; while as to the younger ones, it was 
altogether delightful to them at the moment, and they regarded the 
transactions of February as a dream. 

When they met the next morning, Edgar professed that he could 
not venture on sitting under Mr. Smith's actual sermon, but should 
go to Minsterham, to pay his respects to Wilmet's future relations, 
if there were a feasible train. 

* Yes,' said Clement, * there's one in twenty minutes, which brings 
one in time for the Cathedral.' 

* Dr. Wilmet is engrossed with a distinguished patient Eh ? 
Come along then, Lance ; I must have some one to present me.' 

Lance gave a joyful leap ; but Wilmet interposed, * Indeed, 
Lance, it is hardly safe. Remember how bad your head was after 
Christmas Day.' 

* It's my own head, and I may do as I like with it 1' 

* That's just what you can't now. If you were knocked up to- 
morrow — as you certainly would be, between the railroad and the 
organ — ^ 

* That would be what you may call a fix,' observed Edgar. 
* Knocked up between a railway and an organ 1 What a position !' 

' It is quite true, Edgar,' said Wflmet, the more severely for the 
laughter of Lance and Angel. * Lance knows very well that one of I 
his headaches perfectly disables him. Felix would not be content I 



Chap. 
XXIV. 



16 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXIV 



to leave Mr. Lamb alone in the stop ; and all the good of these 
three days would be undone.' 

* Oh — ^h ! it was a pillar of the state I was asking ?' said Edgar. 
^ Is your head really so ticklish, Lance?' as the boy made a gesture 
of disgust. 

*• Don't persuade him, Edgar. He ought not to do it,' said 
Wilmet, in her blunt authoritative way. 

Lance kicked the heel of his boot against the floor, and said, 

* Don't I pity Jack Harewood, that's all !' 

' Well, a couple of ducks instead of a goose — Bob and Angel, 
you've no heads. — Come ! I'm too modest to face the Librarian 
alone, much less the red-headed daughters.' 

The two girls eagerly looked at their sister. 

* "Gorgons and hydras and chimaeras dire !"' ejaculated Edgar. 

* If I were you, W. W., I'd get up a little more charitably disposed 
towards my brother on a Sunday morning 1' 

* It is Angela's wildness that I am afraid of,' said Wilmet 

* She sha'n't go near a tea-kettle,' said Edgar. * Put on your 
Jiats, chickabiddies, if you wish to catch the Cathedral.' 

* May we? O Wilmet, pray !' entreated Robina. 

* I will see what Felix says.' 

* A graceful form of shifting the obloquy of the negative,' mut- 
tered Edgar, as Wilmet disappeared. 

' Felix will decide as he thinks good,' said Robina with dignity. 

* As she thinks good, you mean,' said Edgar. * Well, I wonder 
how you all contrive to stand it I couldn't, I know, even for a 
quiet life.' 

* You've not been broken in, you see,' said Lance, trying to 
answer with nonchalance. 

* No, I only see a specimen occasionally. What has she been 
doing to you this morning, that has spoilt your appetite, and 
brought you under her thumb ?' 

* Don't, Edgar 1' burst out Lance, starting up and running away. 

* No, Edgar,' said Geraldine ; * it is not kind. It is hard enough 
for him as it is, and it is all for Felix's sake.' 

Luckily, Clement had the wisdom not to speak, and therefore 
Cherry obtained a more reasonable answer. 

* Well, that is a plea. Cherry ; but it does rile me to see a fellow 



FAMIL Y GJIOOLS. 



rj 



like that dragooned over, and thrown away, to bolster up a wretched 
little business such as this. It's a mistake, depend upon it, to let 
the demon of present necessity engulf another of the best of us. 
My squibs are conscientious, I assure you/ 

* I don*t care for her !' exclaimed Bernard : * TU go with you 
whenever you please, Edgar !' 

* Well, Wilmet, under what decent mask do you veil your stony 
heart ?' asked Edgar, as she re-entered. 

* Felix sees no reason against their going,' said Wilmet, rather 
gloomily. * Only, Edgar, pray don't encourage Angela to get into 
one of her states. You don't know what they are.' 

For Felix had decided it against her. * Yes, let' them go. I 
don't believe he can bear to face any one in the town, and the 
charge of them will be a safe-guard.' 

* But Angela ?' 

^ My dear, the worst that can happen with her is that she should 
be a little boisterous with the Harewoods ;' and as Wilmet showed 
that the prospect was unpleasing, ^ that is better than what he 
could do alone, or with Lance.' 

* Yes, I was resolved to stop Lance. I don't know whether to 
tell you, but I think you ought to know.' 

* What ?' asked Felix anxiously, 

* Last night at half-past eleven — ^just when I had finished your 
hand — t smelt smoke. So I went down to see what was on 
fire and — ^ 

* You found Edgar smoking in the kitchen.* 

* If it had been only Edgar, I should not have minded, but it 
was Lance too. I do think you ought to give him a warning, Felix, 
for they would do nothing but laugh at me. Edgar would only go 
into transports about my hair, and say how long it was. I don't 
think I was ever so nearly in a passion in my life I If he is 
teaching Lance those ways — ^ 

* He is not Lance's first instructor in smoke,' said Felix ; * I 
believe your own Harewoods were that, Mettie.' 

* * Now you are laughing too, Felix ! I don't know how you can. 
It seems to me that it is all up with us if Edgar is to lead away 
Lance ; and Lance was not up this morning for Church — the first 
time I have known him miss.' 



Ckap. 

xxiv. 



sS 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXIV. 



' Well/ said Felix, rather hastily, * it is of no use pulling reins 
too tight. Don't keep those poor children waiting, or youll make 
them all too late.' 

Wilmet had to obey, with the fretted sense that she had not been 
met as she expected, and that her alarms were injudiciously made 
light of j and Geraldine meantime tried to explain Edgar's bitter 
mischief as pain of heart ; but it grieved her, whatever it was, and 
her spirits sank the more for the physical exhaustion of yesterday's 
violent laughter. But Edgar, looking in to see whether the little 
girls were ready, and finding her alone, leaning against the window 
disconsolately, came up, and putting his arm round her, said, * So 
I scandalize you, Gerald ? I can't give my carcase to be battened 
on by the ghools, were they the best family ghools in the world.' 

* Edgar!' 

* Besides, you know all this was diligently fostered by old 
Blunderbore's duteous intermeddling ; and as it was not my fault 
that I furnished a spectacle for gods and men t?im^ I will not now.' 

* Only, Edgar, if you do care for Felix, do not, pray do not spoil 
his comfort in Lance!* 

* If I don't, nature will. Cherry. That boy is not the stuff to 
make a journeyman stationer, at Wilmefs orders. Oh! if you 
could but have seen her, when she surprised us with our pipes 
last night! I couldn't get her to stand still, or she would have 
been a perfect study for Antigone. She is a magnificent creature 
with her hair down ! — Ha ! little kids, we must scamper for it for 
the train!' 

And off he went, leaving Geraldine not much less unhappy for 
his apology. The long day alone with Felix was a better con- 
solation. She could not leave the house in such cold as the 
present ; and Felix was dressed as soon as breakfast was over, and 
came into the drawing-room, where after their home service, and 
when he had proved his freedom from cough by reading a grand 
sermon of Newman's, his reserve gave way in the Sunday calm, 
and he asked, * Did Edgar say anything to you, Chdrie F 

She repeated the saying about the ghools, as it was evidently* 
meant for circulation among those respectable parties. 

Felix smiled, and said, * I thought so,' and told in return Edgar's 
defiant reception of the tidings. 



FAMILY GHOOLS. 



29 



* I don't think/ said Cherry, * that I was ever more uncomfort- 
able than through his fun. It felt like laughing-gas ; it forced one 
on, and yet it was so unreal. He wants to treat it on the hawk- 
gone-down-the-wind principle.' 

* It is the gallant and the wise one, Cherry. So you ought to 
admire it more than you seem to do.' 

* It cannot be wise if it be not true. That is, if it ever went 
deep with him.' 

*He never meant it to go deep,' said Felix; *but the very 
extravagance of his defiance makes me afraid it took stronger hold 
than he knew, and that the shock may be very bad for him.' 

* But she — ^ and Cherry stopped, afraid to vex him by speaking 
of Alice's incapacity to raise a character. 

He calmly finished. * She was not all we thought her. True, 
poor child ; but an attachment worthily and steadily maintained, 
as for all his nonsense this has been, must be well for a man ; and 
a disruption of this kind must be a breaking-up — whether he treat 
it lightly or no — of foundations such as one who seems to have 
little besides can ill aiford to stand.' 

It was the first time that the secret anxiety had been openly 
named, and Cherry clasped her hands. 

* That is my chief anxiety,' resumed Felix. * Otherwise the end 
of this matter is of course an advantage.' 

* If she could use him so, she was not worth constancy,' said 
Cherry. 

'No!' It was a decided No, though it was followed by* As 
they had made her. Poor child ! She was fiiU of sweet womanly 
gifts, and might have been made everything excellent ; but Edgar 
estimated her more truly than I did. There was always a certain 
spirit of intrigue, and want of substance, or she could never have 
so treated him.' 

'Entirely unfeeling.' 

' Or rather, too light to appreciate feeling otherwise than as a 
tribute to herself, or to dwell on the absent,' said Felix sadly. * I 
now believe that she was conscious of — of my liking. Indeed, I 
am sure of it ; I only tried to hope otherwise, though it was easy to 
forgive her preference for one so much more attractive. There was 
no harm in that. But as things stood with him, to throw him over 



Chap. 
XXIV. 



30 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXIV 



without a word shows an essential want of comprehension of what 
was due to others.' 

' She might at least have written through her aunts.' 

' With a right sense of honour she would ; but I believe she had 
no education in such things. Poor little thing! I hope the 
Frenchman will do well by her.' 

' Felix dear, may I ask you — ^this is not the pain that it was 
before?' 

' No' said Felix, looking steadily at her, with his chin on his 
hand. * No, certainly not I was greatly shocked and upset at 
first, but not personally; though of course I must always feel 
towards her as I never can for any other woman ;' then, at 
Cherry's start, * I mean that the woman who fills one's life with a 
certain glory and radiance of— possibility, never can be the same 
as others to one, even though it lasted ever so short a time, and 
was ever so great a mistake. But that does not mean wishing to 
begin it over again.' 

* Not with her.' 

'It is absurd to make auguries or protests/ said Felix quietly; 
* but from a boy I knew well that that sort of thing could hardly be 
for me, and I am content to have returned to that conviction. 
Even ending, as it has done, the year of — of — perhaps fools' 
paradise was well worth having, but I hope it will serve me for 
life. If I can keep faithfial to what I once thought Alice, it will be 
best for all of us. So don't be anxious about me, my Whiteheart 
The trouble of last winter was over long ago, and the zest and 
spirit of life came back with strength and work. I am quite as 
happy now as I was before — ^happier, I think.' 

* Then this need not make you ill,' breathed Cherry, aware that 
she wa.s saying something foolish. Indeed, Felix laughed a little. 

* Hardly,' he said playfully. * Remember^ Cherry, what a pre- 
dicament I was in — obliged to act the heavy father, as Edgar calls 
it, when I was so much concerned myself, and with him telling me 
I was a fool for my pains, as I believe I was. Besides, it was a 
good honest cold I caught at Brompton, in a very sharp east wind. 
If you insist on going any further, you will become a family ghool. 
Cherry.' She was obliged to laugh ; and he continued, * No, don't 
be anxious. This was an opportune scald. I should have found 



FAMILY GHOOLS. 



SI 



the day's work severe, if I had not had time to face this thoroughly. 
Such a quiet day last spring would have been worth a quart of cod- 
liver oil later.' 

Therewith the pattering of many feet resounded on the frost- 
bound street ; and the church-goers returned, averring that Mr. 
Smith's sermon had been like enough to Edgar^s to render it diffi- 
cult to keep their countenances, and to make them rejoice in 
Angela's absence. Of this Felix might judge for himself, for not 
long after the preacher himself arrived, oflfering the MS. for an 
abstract for the paper, all unconscious of the second-sight that had 
reported it already. 

There he lingered, trying to talk, as if he wanted to say some- 
thing that would not come out ; and at last he was only driven 
from, the field by the return of Edgar and the girls, who came in 
open-mouthed and eager out of the cold. 

Edgar had had a great deal of fun with Mrs. Harewood, and had 
on liis side fascinated all the family ; so that Robina confided to 
Lance that she thought Grace Harewood ought to be warned, for 
Edgar went on with her like * You know what' 

* Make yourself easy,' said Lance ; * Grace and Lucy know all 
about that better than any girl in Minsterham. What did old Bill 
say ? and what anthem did you have ?' 

Felix and Geraldine spent the Evening Service hour in very 
different fashion from the morning ; for Edgar was their companion, 
and took the opportunity of making the remonstrance he had 
threatened about Lance and his prospects. He had never been 
fine in Alda's way, and had not her feelings about losing caste ; 
but whereas his politics were diametrically opposed to those 
of the Pursuivant, he thought Felix ranging himself, according 
to his essential Blunderbore nature, on the side of the old 
giants destined to destruction, and wasting talent and substance on 
a hopeless and thankless cause; but he knew his brother to be 
past remonstrance, and to be perfectly well aware that this was the 
losing side. Only Edgar entered a strong protest against Lance 
being, as he said, sacrificed just to make Wilmet's pot boil, and 
bolster up the old Pursuivant a little longer. 

* You can't be more averse to it than I,' said FeUx. ' If he 
could only go back to his work, he might yet get to the Universit}',' 



Chap. 
XXIV. 



3^ 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXIV. 



* Pshaw ! thafs not what I meant He is not the stuff' you 
were the only one of us that had the making of a scholar. Now 
Lance has got just the taste and the talent that were baulked in 
my case by old Tom's sticking me down to hides and tallow, when 
I ought to have been cultivating them.' 

* There's this difference,' said Geraldine ; * Cousin Thomas stuck 
you, but Lance sticks himself.' 

* Under moral compulsion, eh?* 

* The compulsion was on me,' said Felix. * I was really afraid 
to deny him ; the idleness, and the fretting over it, were doing his 
head so much harm.' 

* That's all very well. No harm done ; but to let him go on 
here in the stodge is a bit of short-sightedness I can't understand 
He'll never be happy in it j and you'd better let him go before it 
is too late.' 

* Go ? but how, and where ? His health is not fit for study, and 
his voice ought to rest for another year.' 

Then Edgar explained his own plan. Lance had already 
considerable musical knowledge, and ability such that his way in 
the musical world would be secure. Amateur as he was himself, 
Edgar had such a footing there that he could secure an introduction 
for his brother, who while learning would be able to maintain 
himself; and either by violin or voice, if not by original com- 
position, win name, fame, and fortune, in a few years. A manager 
of high reputation Edgar mentioned as likely to accept and train 
the boy ; and he added that for his own part he would watch over 
the little fellow ; and he added, with a look in his eyes that went 
to Felix's heart, * And nothing would do me so much good noiv as 
the charge of him.' 

* That I do believe, Edgar,' said Felix warmly ; * but it would 
be throwing the helve after the hatchet in a way you can't expect 
of a heavy father.' 

* Exactly what I knew you would say. You veil it a little more ; 
but we poor Bohemians don't meet with much more charity from 
you than from our stately sister. Reprobates all — eh ?' 

* Living a life of temptation enough to make me choose no one 
to be drawn into it that I can prevent Have you been talking xq 
Lance about it ?' 



FAMILY GHOOLS. 



33 



* Well, it rose out of last night's talk to him. Not that he gave 
in to it. He's Ipyal to you to the back-bone, and all importance 
too with the charge of the shop. Besides, that cathedral — ^ifs a 
sort of mother's milk to him, not out of his mouth.' 

* Thaf s a good hearing !' said Felix, with a rather defiant smile. 

* But it won't last,' said Edgar; *the drudgery and sameness will tell ; 
and you'd better give in with a good grace in time, Blunderbore.' 

* You've been persuading him,' said Cherry reproachfully. 

* Well, Cherry, I'm not in the habit of confounding virtue with 
dulness ; and when the little chap talked to me of the musical 
doings I had been after, I felt the sin and shame of getting a 
nightingale to make a barn-door fowl of.' 

* I can only tell you,' said Felix, with more annoyance than he 
usually betrayed, * that if you took your nightingale to the din of 
London, and the excitement of a concert, you'd have him with 
inflanmiation on the brain before the week was out ^Vhy, I sent 
him over to see his doctor at Minsterham, and he says it would be 
murder to send him back to his books and the choir for this next 
quarter at least; and if cathedral music will not do for him, judge 
if London concerts would I' 

* And did you think I wanted to carry oflf your deputy right hand 
while your own is hung up in a bag, you jealous old giant ? Why, 
I proposed to devote myself to the Pursuivant to-morrow !* 

* Thank you ; I am afraid it would be taken for the Tribune.' 

* As if. I couldn't hit off the complacent, gentle, manly, stick-in- 
the-mud style for squiredom 1 I'll write you a leader — on what shall 
it be, municipahties, or the smut in wheat? — ^that you shall not 
know from your own.' . . 

To wish • Edgar away was impossible, and yet how feel willing 
that Lance should be under such influence? Withal there was the 
difficulty of shewing Wilmet that to fret Lance with restrictions 
was a dangerous thing at such a moment She would jdeld to 
Felix's desire that she would not interfere with that orgie over the 
kitchen fire — ^which he regarded all the time with as much dread 
as herself — but she thought his concession weak: and Lance 
himself was perilously like Edgar m all his bright pleasant qualities, 
talents, and tastes, so that the two had an enjoyment in one 
another's company that it was painful to regard with anxiety. 

VOL. II, D 



Chap. 
XXIV. 



34 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



^HAr-XXV. 



CHAPTER XXV. 

DON GIOVANNI. 

* Towered cities please us then, 
And the busy hum of men. 

And ever against eating cares 

Lap me in soft Lydian airs. 
♦ » « « * 

With wanton heed, and giddy cunning, 
The melting voice through mazes running.' 

Milton, 

The Monday brought business instead of sentiment. Not only 
was the Pursuivant to be provided for, but Felix had on his mind 
the year's accounts. No one had ever had Froggatt and Under- 
wood's Christmas bill later than the second week in January — and 
no one should. Besides, he was very anxious to balance his books 
this critical year, and was unwilling to employ a professional 
accountant for what, as far as head went, he could do perfectly 
well. His willing helpers began to perceive what they had never 
realized before — his practised power of quickness and accuracy. 
The Pursuivant was quite work enough for Cherry, even if she 
could have borne the strain of application to accounts ; Lancelot 
was needed in the shop; and Wilmet and Clement found them- 
selves whirled on beyond their power of speed. Robina proved 
the most efficient helper ; for arithmetic had been so well taught 
by Miss Fennimore, that she understood with less trouble to herself 
and Felix than any of the rest. They laughed to find that five 
had been about what he usually did singly; and that he had all 
the time been the main-spring of them all — referee to Lance and 
Cherry, arranging for the others in pencil with his left hand, 
breaking off to direct one, verify for another, explain to the third, 
and often distracting them by whistling to Theodore, amusing Stella, 
or gossiping with Edgar — all with ease and without hurry, as if it 
came naturally to him, * Julius Caesar was nothing to him !' laughed 
Geraldine, as she perceived the ability and power that she had never 
ascribed to him before, because he had not Edgar's brilliance. 



DON GIOVANNI, 



35 



As to Edgar, though he had been trained for a merchant's clerk, 
he professed to have forgotten all his training : he would only 
proflfer help to the editorial business, and there put out Cherr/s 
arrangements more than he helped her; and finding every one 
much too busy to loiter, he took his departure early on Tuesday 
morning, leaving an unsatisfactory sense that he had not been 
comforted nor made welcome enough — a sense of regret and yet 
of relief. 

The result of the balance was that the Pursuivant was a less 
profitable investment than hitherto, but by no means a loss ; while 
the Tribune seemed to have reached a present level of circulation, 
where it might rest till some further excitement There would 
henceforth be a hand-to-hand struggle; but the Pursuivant still 
held its own. And as to the private budget, the household hcui 
pulled through without exceeding their income, when all the 
demands of the year were answered. Moreover, Fulbert had been 
appointed to a well-paid office, and had sent home twenty-five 
pounds, begging that Lance might have the preference in the 
disposal ; and the whole family were very proud of this, the first 
substantial help that had been sent in by any of the brothers — 
Lance proudest of all, perhaps, though he declared that it was no 
good to him, and begged that it might clear Bernard's first year. 

Lance had said nothing all this time of Edgar's invitations, and 
no one was sure whether that unscrupulous person had made them 
to him in person or not, till one dismal foggy afternoon at the end 
of the week. Felix, though still helpless as to his hand and arm, 
had resumed his place down-stairs ; and Cherry was sitting in the 
window, to get light to pursue her work of unpicking a dove- 
coloured French merifio dress, a legacy of Alda's, which was to be 
dyed and made up again for Angela. It was a business that she 
disliked — ^it always seemed to bring the sense of grinding to her 
mind — and this particular dress seemed to carry in every fold the 
remembrance of some jar between the wearer and herself; nor was 
she exhilarated by the accompaniment, for Robina was dutifully 
puzzling out on the worn old piano a long difficult sonatina — a 
sort of holiday task, which lay heavy on the child's mind, and 
seemed to Cherry a mere labyrinth of confused sounds. The dull 
day, the dull work, and weary clash up to the place where Robina 

D 2 



Chap. XXV. 



.;6 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. XXV 



never failed to stumble, and then go back to the beginning with 
no better success, wore Cherry's spirits. She began to feel as if 
this were like her life — all mist, all toil, all din, everything fair and 
lovely closed up from her, nothing left but the yearning knowledge 
that it existed, and that everybody could enjoy it except herself — 
she, who felt such capacity for making the most of it The sense 
of imprisoned tedium grew so strong at last, that she was ready to 
cry out to stop the only thing she could stop, when she was sensible 
that a very different hand was on the keys — no confused or 
uncertain touch, but the harmony was being read off, and the 
stammering spelling work was exchanged for clear, true, feeling 
discourse. She needed not to look round to know that Lance was 
standing behind Robina ; but presently he came to a dull discordant 
note, and broke off with a growl of disgust, ' What, another gone !' 

* Didn't you know that?' 

* No ; I can't bear to touch the wretched old thing, it makes me 
sick !' 

* I wish we could learn to tune it' 

* Poulter did show me once, but it's no good. It is just as 
makeshift and disgusting as all the rest of it I' 

* You've got a head-ache, Lance.' 

* No, I haven't Felix has been at me, too.' 

* What ! he sent you up ?' 

* Ay ;' and as Robina sat down on a low stool, he threw himself 
on the floor, with his head on her lap, deUvering himself of a 
howling yawn. 

* Why did he send you up ?' as she stroked his hair back from 
his temples. 

* Oh, it has been an intolerable bother ! All the samples of 
writing-paper have somehow been and gone and got into the 
wrong drawers, and Mr. Underwood has been in no end of a state 
of mind — quite ferocious; and Lamb and I have been sorting and 
struggling to get 'em right, till at last I didn't know fancy pink 
from widow's deepest affliction ; and Felix, by way of the most 
cutting thing he could do to me, orders me up-stairs !' 

' I am so sorry ! It must have been Lamb's doing.' 

* No : he's much too sober-sided. It was mine, I'm sure, one 
day when I was hating it all a little worse than usual.' 



DON GIOVANNI. 



37 



' Hating it all 1 O Lance ! I thought you got on so well T 

* A nice sort of getting on ! I know when it was. There were 
those two Miss Ba)meses — out at Upham— -came in with some fad 
about note-paper, made a monstrous fuss ; but they are very pretty 
—something like that giil at Stoneborough. So I wrote up to 
Scott's — ^took no end of trouble. Scott had to cut it on purpose 
—wouldn't do less than a ream — and after all, when it came down, 
my young ladies just take one quire of it, turn everything over 
again, never say one word of thanks, but stand chattering away to 
an ape of a cousin that came in with them. I was in such a wax, 
that I believe I jumbled up the paper when they'd gone, and 
tumbled it all over again ; and it has never got the better of it, 
though I always meant to set it to rights.' 

* Well, I think it served you right, if you only did it because 
they were pretty !' 

* It wasn't altogether that ; but I knew they would say nothing 
was to be had when Mr. Underwood wasn't there. That's the 
way of it ; one's just a bit of a machine for getting things V 

* You knew that before, when you took the work.' 

* Yes ; but somehow I did not know it would be so disgusting. 
I don't suppose that girl at Stoneborough would look at me over 
the counter now. No, and I don't know that she ought, either ; 
only people might have a civil " Thank you " to throw at one. 
I'm an ass, that's all ! Only one hates having no one to speak to !' 

* It is different from the Harewoods.' 

* Don't talk about that !' 

* But, Lance, I thought you liked it all. You said you did when 
I came Tiome ; and when Felix was laid up, you were everything, 
and did so well. I thought you would have been pleased.' 

* Yes ; I saw the whole stupidity and botheration of the thing. 
It has got to be work instead of play — I suppose that's it.' 

* But, Lance, does it follow that you must go on with it all your 
life, because you are helping FeUx through this winter?' 

* While the accounts look like this, I don't see how he is to pay a 
stuck-up shopman. No, it is all stuff and nonsense 1 I didn't 
think Edgar's talk would have upset me like this.' 

'.What? his talk about operas, and concerts, and pictures — ?' 

* And the spirit and the fun that are always going there. That 



Chap. XXV. 



3H 



THE PILLARS OP THE HOUSE. 



Chap. XXV. 






must be life I One's eyes and ears do seem given one for something 
there ! Do you know Bob, he wants me to come up and live with 
him, and get an engagement as a pianist, and learn the violin?' 

* rO, Lance ! but Felix and Wilmet would never consent !' 

* No, and they didn't ought to. No, I could never,' and he 
spoke low, but Cherry heard his clear voice distinctly, * give the 
stage what was taught me for that other purpose. If I can't be 
what I want, I must do this common work for my living, and not 
make a market of my music. I can give that freely to the Church 
— that is if I ever get my voice again.' 

* That's right, dear Lancey,' said Robina, looking down at the 
face on her knees \ * you could not really Uke that odd life Edgar 
leads.' 

* Like it ? Much you know about it, Bob. It does make 
everything else seem as dull as ditch-water !' 

* Not always.' 

* Not when I can get it out of my head. Only I do wish things 
wouldn't be so stupid here. It's just like a horse in a mill seeing 
a fine thorough-bred come and kick up his heels at him in a 
meadow. I say, Bob, lef s go and get a turn at the organ — ^you 
can blow for me ; it will get the maggots out of my brain best' 

* Oh yes, dear Lance, only — ' 
Only what ?' 

* If you didn't much mind those horrible notes, could you just 
shew me the sense of that thing ? I must learn before I go back 
to school ; and Angel hates it so, I did it when she was out' 

Liance made an inefifable grimace ; but having undertaken to act 
music-master, he first played the piece as exquisitely as the cracked 
piano would allow, and then scolded poor Robin within an inch of 
her life at every blunder, for her utter lack of taste, vituperating 
the stupidity of those who threw good music away upon her. 

She took it all as an honour and a kindness, though she cried 
out for a respite long before she had come up to his rather 
unreasonable requirements ; and reminding him that it would soon 
be too dark for his designs on the church organ, she went to get 
ready ; and the two were not seen again till after daxk, when the 
patient Robina came in very cold, but there was a bright peaceful- 
ness on Lance's face, as if he had played away his repinings. 



DON GIOVANKL 



39 



Felix explained the having sent him away by sa5ring that the 
strain of the days when he had been in charge had told on him, for 
he had grown so confused and distressed in the endeavour to 
remedy the mistakes that had been made, that it had been needful 
for every reason to send him away from the scene of action. No 
doubt the responsibility, and the resistance to Edgar's invitations 
had been a considerable pressure on his mind ; but whatever his 
longings might be, he said no more about them, and continued to 
be the sunshine of the house — so bright, frank, and open that no 
one would have guessed at the deep reserves within. 

It was about a month later that one evening he darted into the 
room, exclaiming, *I say^ who do you think is here? Why, 
Renville, Edgar's boss !* 

* Nothing the matter, I hope ?* cried Cherry. 

* Oh no, nothing ; only Tom Underwood has sent him down to 
see about some picture at Gentry, and so he dropped in, and FeUx 
has asked him to spend the evening.' 

* The evening !' Wilmet started up. 

* Hark 1 there they are on the stairs !' 

The introduction was deferred, for Felix shut him into Mr. 
Froggatfs room, and then came hiifiself to say, * I couldn't but ask 
him ; I hope it is not very troublesome ?* 

* N — no — oh, no,' said Wilmet * Only — Lance, should you 
mind just running down to Prothero's to get some rashers ; and 
let me see — eggs, if he has any he can recommend, and not above 
sixpence for seven f 

'Little Lightfoot is there,' said Felix, who even in his shoe- 
cleaning days would hot have Uked such a commission. 

* He has no sense,' returned Wilmet ; * and I can't spare one of 
the maids. You don't mind, Lance ?* 

* Not a whistle. Only how is my sense to act, if Prothero's 
conscience won't warrant his eggs ?' 

Wilmet's answer was lost in the clank of coppers, as she left the 
rcom with her willing aide-decamp^ and neither of them was seen 
again for the next half hour, during which time Felix had introduced 
the neat dapper little Mr. Renville to his sister Geraldine and little 
Stella; and a conversanon had begun which entertained Cherry 
extremely — it was so like a breath from that wonderful world of | 



Chap. XXV. 



40 



THE PII^ARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap, xxv.j ^rt in which Edgar lived ; and meantime the painter's quick eye 
was evidently taking stock of the drawings on the walls, and feasting, 
on little Stella's childish beauty, though he was too polite to make 
remarks. There had been only just time for Felix and Cherry to 
look at each other, wondering what their house-keeper designed, 
when the door between the rooms was opened by Lance, with a 
face as red as a boiled lobster : and behind the tea-tray appeared 
Wilmefs head, likewise considerable heightened in complexion, 
though not so unbecomingly. Nor had they roasted themselves 
for nothing. Lance looked and winked with conscious pride at 
the poached eggs, frizzled contorted rashers, and crisp toast, 
wherein he had had his share of glory ; and Wilmefs pile of scones 
in their snowy napkin divided the honours of the feast with the 
rissoles, previously provided for the brothers, who since Felix's 
health had become matter of thought, had come to make their 
principal meal in the leisure of the evening, when that notable 
housewife of theirs could provide for them. 

Certainly, Mr, Renville's own Nuremburg haus-firau could not 
have turned out a neater little impromptu supper than Wilmet had 
done ; though she had decidedly objected to Lance's concealment 
of the uncouth forms of the bufter 'with fern-leaves from the garden, 
and had flatly refused to let him station either a pot of jonquils or 
a glass of snowdrops in the middle of the table. ' Eating, was 
eating, and flowers were flowers,' she said ; which ' sentiment 
somehow tickled Lance so much, that choking added to the redness 
of his visage, as, while buttering the muffins, he tried to exercise 
some sculpture on the ill-shaped lump. 

To a Londoner, however, all country fare was fresh, pure, and 
delicious, more especially when dispensed by one who, for . all her 
disdain of the poetry of hfe, could not but be in herself a satisfaction 
to the artist's eye. He could not help a little start of amazement ; 
and as he paused while Cherry made her slow way into the other 
room, he could not refrain from whispering to Felix that he had 
always thought the portraits Edgar brought from home a little 
too ideal, but that he perceived that they did not do justice 
to the reality; and Felix, with a little curl of his mouth, and 
rub of his hands, asked whether Mr. Renville had seen his other 
twin sister. ^ Yes ; she was extremely handsome, but some 



DON GIOVANNI, 



how her style did not explain that classical beauty in the same 
manner.' 

To look at Wilmet and Stella, and to talk to Felix and Geraldine, 
was no despicable pleasure. FeUx's powers of conversation were 
a good deal cultivated by the clients of the reading-room, who had 
always gossiped with Mr. Froggatt as now with him \ and Geraldine 
had native wit and liveliness, that were sure to flash out whenever 
the first chUl of shyness was taken off, as it easily was when her 
brother was there to take the lead. 

But Cherry was not prepared for that proposal of Felix's that 
she should show her drawings to the guest Poor man, he must 
be so much used to the sight of young-lady drawings ; and of late 
Cherry had been in the depths of despair about hers, with all their 
defects, that she knew not how to remedy, glaring full upon her. 
She would have protested, but Lance had handed out the portfolio ; 
and fluttering, nervous, eager, she must conquer her silly sense of 
being ' all in a twitter.* 

Those two or three fanciful groups — ^his * Ah, very pretty !' was 
just courteous and almost weary. But then came an endeavour to 
produce Lance as the faithful little acolyte in the Silver Store. 
Mr. Renville looked at that much more attentively, smiled as he 
nodded at her model, and praised the accuracy of the drawing of 
the hand. From that moment his manner of looking was altogether 
dififerent He criticised so hard that Wilmet was in pain, and thought 
poor Cherry would be annihilated ; but Cherry, on the other hand, 
was drinking in every word, asking questions, explaining difficulties, 
and Mr. Renville evidently extremely interested, seeing and hearing 
nothing but the sketches and the lame girL 

* Who had been her teacher?' 

* Edgar.' 

* No one else? Only your brother?' in great surprise. *I 
don't know when I have seen such accuracy even in the school of 
art' 

* Edgar is so particular about that' 

* Well, if I could only get him to learn his own lesson !' 

* I have so little to copy,' said Cherry. * I ' have nothing to 
distract me.' 

It was Utde enough ; a few second-hand studies of his : a cast j 



Chap. XXV. 



42 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOff^E. 



CKAr. XXV. 



that Felix had given her off an Italian boy's board, which came 
opportunely on her birth-day; and her living models when she 
could catch them, generally surreptitiously. But upon her small 
materials she had worked perseveringly, going back to the same 
subject whenever she gained a new light, profiting by every hint, 
till the result was an evident amazement to the artist ; and as he 
emphatically said, pointing to an outline caught from John 
Harewood as he was reading last summer, * This is not talent, it is 
genius ! You ought to give yourself advantages, Miss Underwood.' 

Cherry smiled rather sadly. * It is quite enough that Edgar 
should have them,' she said. 

* Ah ! if he would only take half the pains with his drawing that 
he seems to have inculcated upon you !' 

It was a disappointment. She had much rather have heard 
Edgar's genius praised than her own, which, be it what it might, 
she had come to believe must, for want of cultivation, be limited 
to the supply of Christmas cards and unsatisfactory illuminations. 

But when the sisters had gone to bed, Mr. Renville had much 
more to say. He had sought Felix out a good deal for the purpose 
of talking over Edgar, He said that the young man's talent was 
of a graceful, fantastic, ingenious description, such as with appli- 
cation would be available for prosperity if not for eminence; but 
application Edgar had never perseveringly given, since he had first 
found himself surpassed in the higher efforts of art. His powers 
were too versatile for his own good, and he dabbled in every- 
thing that was not his proper occupation — concerts, amateur the- 
atricals, periodical literature and journalism, comic sketches. His 
doings were not all wholly unremunerative ; but though he viewed 
them as mines of wealth, they were really lures into a shifty 
uncertain life, and distractions from steady consistent labour. His 
fine voice, his brilliant wit, and engaging manner, made him a star 
ifi the lively society on the outskirts of art ; and he was expensive, 
careless, and irregular in his hours to a degree tliat sorely tried the 
good man, a precisian in his domestic customs. He and his little 
German wife, however, loved the lad, as everybody did love him 
who came under the influence of his sunshiny grace and sweetness 
of temper — the unselfish manner inherited frpm one whose 
unselfishness was real ; and used as they were to the freedom of 



DON GIOVANNI. 



43 



artist life, their allowances were liberal ; but of late there had been 
a recklessness and want of purpose about his ways which both 
grieved and alarmed them: he was more unsettled than ever, 
seemed to have lost all interest in his studies at the Academy, was 
getting into a set that had degenerated from permissible eccentricity 
into something very like lawlessness, and even while an undesirable 
inmate, had vexed his kind friend and master by proposing to 
remove froD^ under his roof, and set up with a chosen comrade of 
his own. 

Committed to his charge, as Edgar Underwood had been by the 
elder brother, the kind httle artist felt it his duty not to let him go 
without an intimation to his family, though well aware that a father 
could have little control in such a case, how much less a brother 
only by two years the elder ? 

All that Felix could hope was, that since this state of dreary 
recklessness was so evidently the effect of disappointment, it might 
pass with the force of the shock. He himself had experiences of 
the irksomeness of the dull round of ordinary occupation when 
the heart was rent by a sudden shock ; and though he had forced 
himself on under the load that had so nearly crushed him, he could 
perfectly understand the less chastened, more impetuous nature, 
under less pressure of necessity, breaking into aberrations under a 
far more astounding blow of desertion. So he hoped. But what 
could he do ? He knew but too well the cool manner in which 
Edgar turned over his remonstrances as those of the would-be 
heavy father. He could only thank Mr. Renville, promise to write 
to Edgar, and entreat him not to remove from the roof which was 
so great a safeguard against the worst forms of temptation, advise 
him perhaps to study abroad for a time to pacify the restlessness 
of his disappointment — ^at any rate, if he could do nothing else, 
not let the brother whom he still loved best of all drift away 
without feeling that there were those who grieved and strove for 
him. 

It was not only of Edgar that Mr. Renville spoke, however. 
He was so much impressed with Geraldine's drawings, that he 
argued that she should have a quarter's study in the South 
Kensington Museum, undertaking, as one of the masters, to 
facilitate her coming and going, so that she should not be involved 



Chap. XXV. 



44 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap XXV. \^ ^ny Scrambles, and declaring that she only needed a fei« 
opportunities of study to render her talent really excellent and 
profitable. 

Felix declared her going to be simply impossible ; but either Mr. 
Renville or Edgar did not let the matter rest there, for a wami 
invitation arrived from the family in Kensington Palace Gardens, 
backed by many promises of tender care from Marilda. It seemed 
to be absolutely throwing away opportunities for Cherry to refuse 
to avail herself of such an opening; and though she was in 
exceeding trepidation, she had enough of the sacred fire to long to 
perfect her art, justified by the wish to render it substantially 
beneficial. And then Felix could not help thinking that the 
presence of his favourite sister might be a wholesome check to 
Edgar in one direction, and incentive in another, at this critical 
time, and this was no small weight in his balance. While Cherry, 
on the one hand, dreaded going out into the world with the nervous 
dismay of an invalid, who had never been anywhere but to ^t 
Faith's ; and on the other, felt this opportunity for herself almost 
an injustice to Lance, with all his yearnings. 

She was to go immediately after Easter ; and whether by Edgar's 
suggestion or not, Marilda imperiously begged that Lance might 
bring her up to London, and stay as long as he could be spared. 
It was impossible to give him longer than from Saturday till the 
last train on Monday, for FeHx had reporting business on hand, 
and must be out on Tuesday, and did not perhaps regret that 
things had so settled themselves. 

Lance's overflowing enjoyment somewhat solaced Gers^ldine's 
alarm on the way up ; he was so careful of her, and so proud of 
the charge \ and after his wistful glance at Minsterham, the novelty 
was so delightful to him. His journey with John Harewood 
reckoned for nothing, for he had then been far too unwell to look 
about, and it had besides been on a different line ; but now every- 
thing was wonderful, and his exclamations almost embarrassed 
Cherry, she thought they must so astonish their fellow-travellers. 
Even the hideousness of the suburbs seemed to fascinate him— 
there was something in the sense of the multitude that filled him 
^vith excitement. ' It is getting to the heart, Cherry,* he said, 
* where the circulation is quickest' 



DON GIOVANm. 



45 



* Into the world — the vortex, I should call it/ returned Cherry 
thinking of drops being attracted by the eddy, and sucked into the 
whirlpool ; but Lance was gone wild at the gUmpse of a huge 
gasometer, and did not heed. 

Edgar's dainty beard and moustache were the first things that 
met their eyes upon the platform ; his strong arms helped Cherry 
out, and in a wonderfully short time seated her beside Alda in a 
great luxurious carriage. 

To her disappointment, however, the two back seats remained 
vacant 

* No, no,' said Edgar, his white teeth gleaming in a smile ; * we 
must make the most of our time, Lancey boy. What do you say 
to walking by Westminster — then we'll get something to eat — and 
you shall know what Don Giovanni is like before you are many 
hours older, my boy ?' 

Cherry's last view of Lance was with a look of dancing ecstasy 
all over his person. 

* Don Giovanni is the opera, isn't it?' she said in bewilderment. 

* Of course ; what did you think ?* 

* But I thought that was dreadfully dear.' 

* Oh ! Edgar can always get tickets for anything. You must not 
bring out Wilmet's frugalities here, Cherry. Dear old Wilmet, how 
does she bear this long waiting ?* 

Alda was really interested in home tidings, and pleased to. point 
out matters of interest, so that Cherry was fairly happy, till the awe of 
the great handsome house, alone in its gravelled garden, fell on her. 

But when once up the stately stone steps, she was kindly, 
solicitously, welcomed by Marilda suid her mother. The reception- 
rooms (as Mrs. Underwood called them) were all on the ground 
floor ; and Cherry had only to mount one easy flight of broad 
steps to reach the former school-room, with two little bed-rooms 
opening into it — one assigned to her, the other to Marilda's old 
nurse, who had been kept on with little or nothing to do, and was 
delighted to devote herself to the lame young lady. 

She took charge of Geraldine's toilette for the late dinner, so 
tremendous to the imagination used to the httle back-room at home, 
but which turned out after all more tedious than formidable. In 
truth, Cherry was very tired, and Alda quite kindly advised her to 



Chap. XXV 



46 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap.XX^'. 



IVe gone it all over 
I'll just 



go to bed. She wanted to sit up and wait for her brothers, but 
was laughed at, and finally was deposited in her very pretty pink 
bed, where, however, the strangeness of all things allowed her very 
little sleep. Quiet as the place was, she thought something seemed 
to be going on all night ; and at some semi-light hour in the 
morning she bounded up as if at a shot, for there really was a step, 
and a knock, and her door opening. 

* Cherry, are you awake?' 

* O Lance 1 what is the matter?' 

* Matcer ! nothing — only Fm going out to look about me, and 
I thought I'd leave word with you and see how you were/ 

* Out ! Why, didn't I hear the clock strike five ?* 

* Ay. Have you been awake?' 

* A good deal Have you ?' 

* As if anybody could sleep after that 1 
and over. I see there's a piano in this outer room, 
show you.' 

* O Lance ! — now — and Sunday !' 

* I forgot But it is so awful, Cherrj^ : it made one feel more 
than a hundred sermons ;' and the far-away look came into his 
eyes ; as in rapid words he sketched the story, described the scenes, 
dwelt with passionate fervour on the music, all with an intensity 
of feeling resulting in a great sense of awe. His excitement 
s'jemcd to her so great that she begged him to go back to bed for 
the hours that yet remained before breakfast 

* I couldn't, I tell you, Cherry.' 

* But you'll have such a head-ache.' 

* Time enough for that when I get home. I don't know what 
to do with myself, I tell you ; I must get into a church somewhere, 
or I can't bear it' 

* You'll lose your way.' 

* I've got the map of London. If I can I shall get to St 
Matthew's ; and so I thought I had better tell you, in case I wasn't 
back to breakfast Edgar shewed me your room.' 

* Is Edgar sleeping here ?' 

* No ; he went to Renville's when he'd put me in. I'll be back 
anyway by the time Robin and Angel come, but I can't stay quiet 
Nobody ever gave meany notion what this place is. It makes one 



DON GIOVANNI. 



47 



feel I don*t know how, only just to see the people — streaming, 
streaming, streaming, just like a river I And then that wonderful 
—most wonderful music !' 

The boy was gone, and Cherry felt as if liis fate were sealed — 
the drop gone to join the other drops, and to swirl away 1 

Edgar was rather amazed and disconcerted, when on coming in 
about ten o'clock he found that he had vanished. He had meant 
to take him to any ecclesiastical wonder that he wished ; but he 
laughed at Cherry's fears of the boy losing himself. * He is a 
bom gamin,' he said — * takes to London streets as a native 
element But Felix is right, he must not have too much of it 
I was heartily glad when it was over last night, and durst not 
keep him for the ballet, though I much wanted to see what he 
would say to it ; but he was worked up to such a pitch I didn't 
know what would come next, and I'm sure his remarks taught me 
more about Don Giovanni than ever I saw before. He was in such 
a state when he came out that I hardly knew what to do with him. 
I should have given him a glass of ale but he wouldn't hear of that, 
so I could only let him have his will — a great cup of coffee — and 
send him to bed. I knew he wouldn't sleep.' 

Lance did appear at the moment of luncheon, when Robina 
and Angela arrived to spend the rest of the day. He had not 
reached St Matthew's ; but he had found a church open early for 
a grand choral Celebration, and this not being customary at 
Minsterham, had been almost overwhelming to a nature like his. 
It had lasted so long, that the bell rang for matins before the 
congregation had left the church ; and Lance had stayed on, and 
heard a service far exceeding in warmth and splendour that of his 
sober old cathedral, and such a soul-stirring sermon as was utterly 
unlike the steady-going discourses of his canons. 

He had never even missed his breakfast, and yet seemed not to 
care for the meal before him, though he ate what was put on his 
plate ', and he had that look of being all brow, eyes, and nose, 
that had often recurred ever since his illness ; but he would not 
allov/ that he was tired ; and so far from being able to sit still, 
wanted his little sisters to walk with him in Kensington Gardens, 
and Robina being a discreet person, and knowing her way, there 
was no reason against this ; and off they went, all three supremely 



Chap. XXV. 



48 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. XXV. 



happy, and Cherry feeling a certain hopefulness that Robina's steady 
good sense would be a counterpoise to other influences and 
excitements. But Lance had not come to any state for sober 
sense. Under the trees of Kensington Gardens, the influence of 
the brilliant spring beauty, and the gay cheerful vivacity of the 
holiday crowd, still acted on his eager self; and he used his 
sisters as audience for all his impressions as to Don Giovanni, till 
he had driven Angela almost as wild as himself with his vivid 
descriptions — and to be sure, he treated it as a sort of religious 
exercise. Indeed, the sensation he seemed chiefly to have carried 
off with him, was that London had been maligned ; he had always 
supposed it to be a Vanity Fair, where one's religion would be in 
extreme peril ; and behold, he had found religion there like every- 
thing else — more quickening, more inspiriting, more exquisitely 
beautiful and satisfying in its ministrations, than anything that he 
could have conceived ! Nor did the late Evening Service with 
which his day finished — ^with all its accessories of light and music, 
and ' another sermon from a celebrated preacher — ^lessen this 
impression, which made St Oswald's by comparison so utterly fiat, 
dead, and unprofitable. 

Robina could not help saying to Cherry, with that old-womanish 
air of wisdom that belonged to her sometimes, * I do wish we hadn't 
taken Lance to such a nice church. He knows less what London 
really ii; now than he did before.' 

Dear little Robin ! as if she knew what London really was ! 
And Cherry was too anxious an elder sister to give her much 
comfort, except by sajdng, * It is fair that he should know the 
truth of what is to be found there, Bobbie. You see he is only 
getting good out of it in his own mind.* 

* Yes, that's true ; only he will make himself ill.' 

This had come to be Edgar's fear as well as Cherry's, when they 
found that Lance had slept quite as little the second night as the 
first, though he brought down those great lustrous blue eyes of his 
quite as wide open and full of zest in the morning. It made Edgar 
cautious in his choice of sights for the Monday ; but one so long 
habituated to London, and regarding with contempt its stock lions, 
could not estimate what they were to a lad at once so susceptible 
and so unsophisticated, and his diversion at Lance's raptures passed 



DON GlOVANm. 



49 



into anxiety, not unmingled with tedium, and almost disdain, Chap.xxv. 
at anything so very countrified ; but his real care and good nature 
never flagged till he had safely, and to his positive relief, seen 
his little brother off for Bexley by the five o'clock train, to work off 
his intoxication at home, among his proper guardians. 

* I am sure,* he said to Geraldine, * if I had had any notion 
that his brain had continued so ticklish, I would never have had 
him on my hands. The difference between lionizing him and old 
Blunderbore ! why it was — not exactiy fire and water, but Ariel 
and GcMttzalo. Shut the two up in the same shop ! It is ridiculous \ 
No, no. Lance must vegetate down there till his brains have cooled 
down fi-om that unlucky stroke ; but after that, you'll see, nothing 
will keep him down in Felix's hole ; 'tisn't in the nature of things 
that he should be buried there. I've given him the violin I got at 
Li^ge, so he won't be quite wasting his time.' 

There was rest — at least, for the present — in Edgar's acquies- 
cence in Lance's vegetation, except so far as it gave food for 
present anxiety, by showing how the boy's excitability had alarmed 
him; and Cherry anxiously watched for reports from home. 
Felix and she herself were the chief letter-writters in the family, 
and he kept her daily supplied with tidings. His first account — 
written at intervals at the reporter's table at Minsterham — ^bore 
that Lance had come all right, and seemed to have enjoyed him- 
self much. So he had kept up for one day ; but on the third 
came the inevitable tidings, * Poor Lance is in bed, with headache 
in its worst shape. Wilmet has been obliged to stay at home to 
attend to him. It must have been coming on yesterday, for he 
seems to have talked more than enough, and made more blunders 
than can be remedied in a day. I suppose Edgar, would have 
laughed if I had cautioned him ; but I would about as soon have 
put the boy to stand on the Equator as have taken him to that 
opera,' 

The days of pleasure seemed to have a heavy price ; it was 
not till Saturday that Felix reported Lance as in his place as 
nsual, but still looking ill, quiet, and subdued. *I am afraid,* 
proceeded the letter, * that it has been a very fascmating glimpse 
he has had of Edgar's way of life, and that F, and U.'s house is 
more against the grain to hinL I doubt whether it be suited to 

VOL. II. E 



50 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. XXV. 



him \ but the other course seems over-perilous. I wonder whether 
Others have the power of insight and judgment that I need so 
much. However, for the present, health speaks plainly that home 
is the only place for him ; and I can with a free conscience enjoy 
his bright face and service of good will. To have you and him 
both out of the way was severe ; but if it were not for his good, it 
is for yours.' 

Yes, Geraldine trusted it was for her good. When Thomas 
Underwood went to the City in the morning she was always set 
down at the Renvilles', whence the transit to the Museum was so 
short, that she could make it either with her brother's arm or the 
master's. It was not thought fit for her to work all day, so Mrs. 
Sturt (the old nurse) always came to meet and take her home to 
luncheon ; after which she either went out with Mrs. Underwood 
and Marilda, or was carried about by her brother, in which case 
her conveyance was always defrayed at the door with so littie 
knowledge on her part, that Edgar accused her of supposing 
Cousin Thomas to keep innumerable very seedy equipages always 
in waiting on her steps. 

It was great enjoyment — ^real instruction of the best sort in that 
which was most congenial to her, putting the crown on her long 
lonely perseverance, and giving a daily sense of progress and 
achievement, was delightful. She had no notion of rivalry ; but 
when she perceived that she was excelling, that commendation 
almost always attended her attempts, and that in any competition 
she always came near the mark and was sometimes foremost, she 
was conscious of a startling sense of triumph ; and Edgar was full 
of exultation. If his own studies at the Royal Academy had been 
fulfilling all his golden dreams, he could not have been half so 
uplifted as he was by Cherr/s chances of a medal ; while, if he 
had only acted on a quarter of the sensible advice he gave her, he 
would already have been far advanced in his profession. 

If he had been imprudent in Lancelot's case, he showed much 
tender good judgment in his selection on Cheny's behalf of 
exhibitions and rehearsals — never overdoing her, and using all his 
grace and dexterity to obviate her fatigue and prevent embarrass- 
ments from her lameness, till she began to take courage and feel 
at ease. 



DON GIOVANNI. 



51 



Alda never went with them. She said Cherr/s pace would be 
the death of her, and she knew it all by heart. Yet, go where 
they would, there generally appeared, soon after four o*clock, a 
tall, handsome, black-moustached figure, seldom uttering more 
than * Good-morning !' and * AH well at home?* and then content 
to stalk beside them, perfectly indifferent to their object, but 
always ready to give an arm to Cherry, or to find a cab. 

* Dogged by Montezuma's ghost !' Edgar would mutter when 
the inevitable black head came towering into view; and even 
Cherry sometimes felt the silent haunting rather a bore. Edgar 
and Ferdinand were both good company alone, but together she 
knew not what to do with them ; since her sole common subject 
of interest to Ferdinand, church details, provoked Edgar's sarcasm ; 
and though Edgar had enough to say on a thousand other points, 
Feman was totally silent on all, except horses, of which on her 
side she knew nothing. Nevertheless, for very pity, he was always 
allowed to know their designs ; and Cherry delivered messages 
between him and Alda, and marvelled at her never finding it 
possible to avail herself of such chances of meeting. 

Indeed, it puzzled Cherry why Ferdinand should be banished 
from the house, since Marilda took pains to mark her friendly 
feeling towards him as Alda's betrothed ; and the resentment of 
her parents appeared to be inactive ; but Alda declared that any 
advance on his side would provoke great wrath, and that open 
intercourse was impossible ; and it could only be supposed that 
she was the best judge. 

However, to Cherry herself, Alda was far kinder than at home 
— ^perhaps because her own ground was too secure to leave room 
for jealousy ; and she viewed her sister as guest rather than rival. 
During the first shyness and awe, she was a kind helper, full of 
tact, which parried the rather obtrusive patronage of her so-called 
aunt; she provided books, quietly ameliorated matters of dress, 
and threw in judicious hints and encouragements, so that Cherry's 
warm heart beat gratefully, and she thought she had never known 
how nice Alda could be in her proper element 

As to Marilda, she was thoroughly good-natured, perhaps rather 
teasing, and tyrannical as to what she thought for Cherry's good, 
and very careful that she should not be neglected ; but there did 

£ % 



Chap. XXV. 






52 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chaf.XXV. 



\ 



not seem to be much in common between them, they never could get 
on in a tite d iete; and Cherry, who had heard vast statements from 
her brothers about Marilda's original forms of goodness, was dis- 
appointed to find her life so entirely that of a common-place young 
lady. She was clumsy, over-dressed, and of a coarse complexion ; 
and though she sometimes said odd things, they were remarkable 
not for wit but for frankness. It seemed as though the world had 
been too much for Marilda's better self, and as if she were 
becoming the purse-proud heiress who fancied wealth could atone 
for want of refinement or of delicacy towards people's feelings. 

It was with the master of the house that Cherry got on best 
At first he treated her like a frail china cup that a touch might 
break, but gradually he discovered in her resemblances to all 
manner of past Underwoods, talked to her about her parents in 
their youth, expressed endless wonder how * that lad Felix made it 
out,' and by-and-by found that a few questions about the day's 
doings would draw forth a delightfiiUy fresh, simple, and amusing 
narrative, given with animated lips, and eyes that charmed him. 
He became very fond of littie Geraldine, and accepted her as his 
special evening companion when his wife took the other two girls 
into society. She could talk, read the paper, or play at cribbage ; 
and was so much pleased to be of use, that she became as much at 
ease and therefore as amusing as with old Froggy himself. 

She had been assured of exemption from parties, but she found 
that the sumptuous luncheon was a popular institution, and that 
radiant ladies, lounging men, riding parties brought home by Alda, 
and stout matrons on a cruise of morning calls, were always 
dropping in* It was diverting to sit quietly by and listen to the 
characteristic confidences of the city dames, to the dashing nonsense 
of the girls, and the languid affectations of the young men ; and 
capital material was furnished for the long letters that amused the 
breakfast-table at home — ^journals, half full of beautiful description, 
half full of fun and drollery. Those gay dames and demoiselles 
little thought what a pair of keen grey eyes were watching them, as 
they passed, almost unheeded, the little sober-hued person whom 
they never fairly understood to be the sister of the beautiful Alda. 

Of the school establishment at Brompton Cherry saw something 
She was invited to drink tea there, for the sake of talking over 



DON GIOVANNI. 



53 



Angela ; the two heads of the establishment being very glad to get 
an elder sister to discuss that puzzling personage with. Of Robina, 
since the catastrophe eighteen months ago, they had notliing but 
good to say ; she had really lived it down, so far as to have proved 
that if she had erred, it was only in judgment \ but with Angela 
they still knew not what to do. 

She had come back subdued and with better impulses, and these 
had carried her on up to Easter, giving such satisfaction to the 
Vicar, tJiat he had sanctioned her Confirmation ; but immediately 
after the holidays, the wild spirit had broken out again. She neither 
leamt nor tried to learn, attended to nothing but music, and showed 
up exercises and dictation flagrantly ill-spelt, and not unfrequently 
making fun of the whole subject As a reward for her weeks of 
propriety, she had been promoted to the German class ; but she 
had openly declared that she hated German, and saw no use in it, 
and she would not attempt anything but an occasional caricature of 
pronunciation. Everybody liked her — even those whom she most 
disrespectfully provoked ; and she was like a kind of tame monkey 
to the school, turning her very punishments into absurdity. She 
would Kghten solitary confinement by fantastically decorating the 
chairs and tables. If shut up in the dark, her clear shrill voice 
would convulse all the household with Lance's whole repertory of 
comic songs, the favourite being Thackeray's * Little Billee,' which 
she always sang as if she expected to be rescued by the sight of 
* Admiral Nelson, K.C.B.,' if not made * Captain of a Seventy- 
three !* and even impositions she always managed to make ludicrous, 
by comments, translations, or illustrations, bringing them up with a 
certain irresistible innocence and simplicity of countenance. What 
was to be done ? No, they did not want her to be taken away ; 
she was a bright dear girl, with a great deal of good in her — ^very 
warai-hearted, and certainly devout ; and Miss Fennimore confessed 
that she should be very sorry to part with her, or to confess hei- 
self beaten in the struggle. * Your name is Geraldine V she asked, 
suddenly ; * are you Irish ?* 

* My grandmother was.' 

* That accounts for it V 

* She must have absorbed all the Irish nature in the family, thc\i,' 
said Cherry, laughing. 



Chap. XXV. 



54 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. XXV. 



' Perhaps. But it throws a light on it I don't know which is 
the most curious subject, national or family character.' 

Of course Cherry was set to talk to Angela — an operation that 
she hated almost as much as FeUx did ; and the result of which 
attempt was this, * Now don't — don't, Cherry !' — ^hugging her round 
the neck ; * you never were made for scolding, and it is no use 
spoiling your own pleasure and mine ! Leave it to Wilmet ; she 
does it with dignity, you know !' 

* But, Angel, I do really want to understand why you are so set 
against German?' 

* It's a nasty crack-jaw language, that all the infidels write their 
books in,' 

* I only wish they did !' murmured Cherry. 

* And if s the Protestant language, too \ and that's worse] 
persisted Angela. * No, I won't learn it on principle.' 

* I thought principle was to do what one was told.' 

* That depends. Now, German will never be of use to me ; I'm 
not going to be a governess, and I sha'n't qualify myself for it ! ' 

* Yes, Angel, I know what you mean ; but isn't obedience the 
qualification you must learn — ^if you are to come to the other thing ?' 

* I shall learn it fast enough when the time comes. Don't you 
know. Cherry, a republic is much better preparation for despotism 
than one of your shilly-shally rational limited monarchies?' 

* That may be true,' said Cherry ; * but you know I think the 
rational loyalty the most wholesome training.' 

* Yes, I know. Family life suits you ; but I must have the — the 
real religious life or none. I don't like secularity.' 

* O Angel, you are much worse with these fine words that de- 
ceive you, when you are really and tnily only a naughty idle child !' 

* That's true, Cherry j and yet it is not true,' said Angela, 
thoughtfully. * I am a naughty idle child, and yet I am more.' 

* How is it — after this Confirmation and all?' 

* Ah r said Angel, frankly. * I thought it would have done me 
good and made me different ; but instead there's just one antici- 
pation gone, and nothing to look to.' 

* Not your own possible future ?' (Cherry knew of it, though 
not Wilmet) 

* That's such a dreadful way off! No, if you all will keep roe 



DON GIOVANNI. 



55 



in the world, I must have my fun 1 Come, Cherry, don't look so 
horribly vexed ! I'll tell you what, if youll cheer up, I won't have 
another flare-up with old Fen as long as you are here to be bulHed 
about it!' 

And she kept her word so faithfully, that the two ladies thought 
that charming little elder sister had had a great effect upon their 
troublesome charge. 



CHAPTER XXVI. 

TRANSMUTATION. 

* Affection follows Fortune's wheels, 
And soon is shaken from her heels ; 
For, following beauty or estate, 
Her loving soon is turned to hate.' 

Sir Walter Raleigh. 

Do you remember,' wrote Cherry, * poor Feman's old rival in 
thg Life Guards, Sir Adrian Vanderkist ? I have seen him ! He 
descended upon us at luncheon-time in all his glory; and Mrs. 
Underwood was like Eve entertaining the Angel. I hope that is 
not profane 1 it is only Paradise Lost I don't comprehend her 
delight, for he is only the grandson of a man who made a great 
fortune by inventing some metal to look like silver. Though he 
must have been Dutch, this youth is not the conventional 
Dutchman in seven knickerbockers perched on a barrel, but is 
small and insignificant, in spite of his magnificant get-up. Never 
did Feman, in his most bejewelled days, equal that studious 
exquisiteness ; and I could pity the baronet for having had a rival 
with black moustaches that curl of their own accord; but pity 
evaporates when I find that he has got Brown Murad, and hear 
Mrs. Underwood's gratitude for his promise of tickets for some- 
body's concert I wonder whether he is thinking about Marilda?' 
* April 15th. Two great events begin to loom. One is our 
soirke musicale^ for which the cards are actually being written ; and 
Edgar and Alda are debating the programme. I am to have a 
quiet comer out of sight, and use my eyes and ears. How I wish 
you and Lance could send up yours 1 



Chap. XXV. 



Chap. 
XXVI. 



5< 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXVl. 



* The other is a great functioii at St Matthew's, on the opening 
of the new infant-schools, on Whit Tuesday. Clement is coming 
down for it ; and Robin, Angel, and I are to go with Cousin Tom 
to his office, where Clem will meet and take charge of us. It 
certainly is a fine thing to come to London, and see the world ; 
though the nicest part of the world to me is that odd little room of 
Mrs. Renville's where people are so entertaining, and one catches 
glimpses of great luminaries in their moments of unbending and 
good nature 

* May 3rd. Where shall I begin the story of our soirke ? I 
will pass over the misery of serving as a corpus vile, for Alda and 
Mrs. Sturt to try experiments on with scraps of head-gear and 
jewellery, and merely state that I had the white alpaca with blue 
velvet edges, and blue beads round my head and neck ; and then 
they did not very much mind the sight of me ; and Edgar even 
said I looked a tidy little thing enough. He and Marilda disposed 
of me in a nice little nook in the recess of a window, more than 
half hidden by a curtain, and capital for seeing and hearing, nearly 
as good as my old perch in the organ gallery. Alda looked beau- 
tiful — such lovely rosy clouds of soft gauziness, and wreaths of wild 
roses ! She has put an end to the habit of dressing like Marilda, 
to their mutual benefit ; but, oh, if I could see old W. W. in such 
garb 1 Doesn't she look disgusted ? But who knows what John 
may put her into ? 

* Oh, the things people wear ! (then followed some pen-and-ink 
outlines,) and the colours and the festoonings ! I trust that in 
some stratum of society somewhere there is more notion of the 
beautiful. If the world is all like this, I can't tell why it should be 
so dangerous ; for, as far as I can see, it consists in conjugating 
the verb to bore. 

* However, there was the music, and that was compensation. 
(A critical account ensued then.) Private. Poor Edgar was 
quite upset when one of the ladies varied from the programme by 
singing Alice's fevourite old " Sands of Dee." I saw him frowning, 
and bidng the end of his moustache, as if he could hardly bear it ; 
but, as you may guess, he was the more fiinny and lively when he 
came to me, teasing me about that Sir Adrian, whom he calls a 
specimen of the transmutation of metals — Dutch slime made shiny, 



TRANSMUTA TJON, 



57 



and threatening me with who or what would be transmuted next ; 
but I think Marilda has more principle. 

* Afterwards I had a great treat, for Edgar spied Mr. Grinstead, 
whom we had never expectetl, though he had a card, as he does 
not care for music ; and Cousin Tom only knows him through 
having bought his lovely group of Una and the Lion. I had met 
him at the Renvilles'; and Edgar brought him to my comer, where 
he leant against the window-shutter, and talked most pleasantly, 
only he would go on all through the songs ] but one could excuse a 
great deal to a man who knew Thorwaldsen, and has seen Canova ; 
and he told me so much that I wanted to hear, that it was a perfect 
feast. When he found I had never seen the Leonardo at Morecombe 
House, he caught Mrs. Underwood, and arranged to take us there 
at four o'clock on Wednesday. Fancy seeing a Leonardo ! and 
with him to explain it ! Mrs. Underwood was quite in a rapture, 
because she wants to see a cabinet that Lady Morecombe gave 
;£i5o for; but I thought it very nasty of Sir Adrian to say that 
he knew Lord Morecombe very well, and could take her there any 
day, to which Alda answered that she hated show houses.' 

(Enclosed from Edgar.) 

* The fact is, that the Cherry is a brilliant success. She is our 
one native genius for conversation ; and I will say for the " Pursui- 
vant" that it has kept her up to the day. At Renville's she is the 
life of everything; and even here the ocean of dullness cannot so 
entirely asphyxiate her but that she sparkles up through it; and 
luckily Alda has not so perceived it as to begin the extinguishmg 
process — ^indeed, she has affairs of her own to 'Ook to. As to 
Grinstead — it is a case of captivation. Don't be afraid, or the reverse : 
he is a confirmed old bachelor, bald and spectacled. Renville 
showed him her sketch of his Una, and he said nothing had ever so 
hit off the soul. He met her at their house; and she, not knowing 
who he was, was not encumbered with any awe of greatness, but 
chattered like her own little self, till he was taken with her freshness 
and cleverness, came heire on purpose to meet her, and is to show 
her the Morecombe gallery. A fine chance ! Altogether, the litde 
maid has so many feathers in her cap, that she wouldn't know 
where to stick them, if — poor little dear ! — she ever found 



Chai». 

XXvT 



58 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXVI. 



them out, and didn't think every attention pure pity to her lame 
foot/ 

The next was the day of the festival at St. Matthew's. Mr. 
Underwood graciously consented to use a carriage large enough to 
transport Cherry and both her little sisters to his office, at the door 
of which there appeared, however, not Clement, but Ferdinand 
Travis. The organist had been suddenly taken ill, and Clement 
was supplying his place ; so Ferdinand, whose firm had taken a 
Whitsun hohday, was the substitute, in the vain hope that Alda 
would have been of the party. 

* No,' said Angela ; * they are going to ride. And, O Feman ! 
I am sure I saw Brown Murad com — ^ 

There she stopped short, either aghast at a sort of spasm that 
crossed Ferdinand's countenance, or diverted by the full current of 
life in Holbom ; and he, recovering, began to point out whatever 
could interest Cherry. He had a great deal to tell about St 
Matthew's, where he knew his way as well as Clement himself, and 
piloted his charge in good time to the very place their brother had 
indicated for them. 

The service was most beautiful, and full of life \ and then ensued 
a procession to, and benediction of, the new school and nursery for 
the little ones. Afterwards came the new experience of luncheon 
for the large motley party in the refectory of the clergy-house — 
new at least to Cherry, for her sisters were not unfamiliar there ; 
Robina had a dear friend's little brother among the choristers, and 
Angela was chattering to a curate or two. Clement was happy 
in meeting with old comrades ; and Cherry was glad that she was 
saved from being a burthen by Ferdinand's devotion, and quite 
accepted his assurance that it was a great delight to him. 

Then followed a feast for the school-children and the aged ; but 
the atmosphere soon became too much for Cherry, and she thank- 
fiiUy accepted Ferdinand's proposal of showing her the church in 
detail. It was only on the other side of the quadrangle; and 
there was a great charm in the lofty, cooi, quiet building, where 
she could dwell thoroughly on every decoration, permanent or 
temporary, and in full sympathy with her companion, who went so 
fully and deeply into all these subjects, as to lead her on, and 



TRANSMUTA TION, 



59 



open new meanings to her. At last they sat down in a sort of 
cloister that ran round the court, to wait for the rest 

* Do you know/ said Geraldine, * this place gives me a sense of 
life and vigour. Our own seems to me, in comparison, a sort of 
sleeping, or rather a mechanically acting, body, wanting a spirit and 
soul to be breathed into it and make it effective.' 

* You have never told me about your new curate,' said Ferdinand ; 
and indeed, by tacit consent, they had avoided the subject in Edgar's 
presence. 

* Mr. Flowerdew ? Oh, he is very good, very gentle, and kind ; but 
he is a depressed elderly man, with all the energy disappointed and 
wom out of him. His wife is dead ; and he has two or three children, 
out, settled, and fighting their way ; and there he is alone, still an 
assistant curate, tumbled about in secondary positions too long to 
care for any more than just doing his duty without any life or spring.' 

* Do you see much of him?' said Ferdinand, surprised by this 
intimate knowledge. 

' Yes. He makes the sick his special care, and he thinks me 
one ; so he comes sometimes, and sits half an hour when I am 
painting, without saying a word. I think it is cheerful for him, in 
his way,' said Cherry, with a merry laugh. * And he is very musi- 
cal ; so the boys like that But do you know, Ferdinand, when I 
look at him, I do feel thankful that my own dear father had not the 
long weary wear and tear to change him. That man is older than 
he would be even now.' 

* Of course it must be good,' said Ferdinand. ' And is there no 
chance of Mr. Bevan coming back ?' 

* He wants another summer at the baths. The absence of the 
head paralyses everything so. I always feel, when I go back 
from St Faith's, as if we had the framework, and of course the 
real essentials ; but we have to do all the work of bringing it home 
to ourselves.' 

* I know what you mean,' said Ferdinand ; * though Bexley must 
be more to me than any other place, this one is the great help and 
compensation to me. How I wish Alda were near it V 

* Has she ever been here?' 

* Once or twice ; but only under its shadow does one enter into 
the real life. Some day perhaps — ' 



Chap. 
XXVI. 



CO 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap- 
XXVI. 



Geraldine could not imagine the day of Alda's entering into the 
real life of St. Matthew's \ but she could only say, * Of course there 
is a vast difference between only coming as an outsider, and being 
one of the congregation.' 

* Immense ; though I never found it out till I came to live here; 
and so it would be with her. After all, were she but near, or I 
could see her freely, I should enjoy my present life very much.' 

* I'll tell you what I should do in your place,' said Cherry. * I 
would go straight to Mr. Underwood, and ask his leave to visit her; 
and I don't believe he would make any objection.' 

* No. Alda forbids that,' he answered, decidedly ; * and she 
can be the only judge.' Cherry felt small. But presently he 
added, * I wish I could be rid of the doubt whether the present 
state of things is not burdensome to her. Perhaps I ought to 
to have freed her at once ; I could have worked for her without 
binding her.' 

* Nothing but affection really binds,' said Cherry, in some diffi- 
culty for her answer. 

* No ; I might have trusted to that, but I thought the release 
would cost her as much as myself; and she was at home then !' 
and he suppressed a heavy sigh. 

* She said it would be easier to meet you in London,' said Cherry; 
but I don't think it is.' 

* And absence leaves room for imaginations,* he said. * And I 
have nothing tangible to set against what I hear — ^ay, and see.' 

* What ?' the word was out of Cherry's mouth before she could 
check it 

* You can cast it out of my mind, perhaps,* he said. * Do you 
ever see a feUow of the name of Vanderkist?' 

Cherry could not help starting. And his black brows bent, and 
his face became stem, so that she was fain to cry, * Oh, but it's 
Marilda!' 

* Impossible !' he said, with what she thought a terrible smile at 
her simplicity. *I tell you, I saw his first look at her — at my 
Alda !* Some ruthless Spanish ancestor must have looked out ot 
the deep glow of his eyes, as he added, * I hear he has betted that 
she, as well as whatever I used to prize, shall be his before the end 
of the season.' 



TRANSMUTA TION, 



61 



*Let him !' said Cherry, proudly. *Alda can't help that. She 
can't hinder his coming to the house/ 

*I know,' he said. *Do not suppose that I doubt her. I 
tnist her entirely; but I am foolish enough to long for the 
assurance that there is no cause for the rumour that she en- 
courages him.* 

Under sudi eyes of dark fire, it was well that Cherry could 
sincerely answer, * Oh no ! Eyery one does come round her ; but 
she does not let him do so a bit more than other people.* 

* You entirely beheve that I may dismiss this as a base ground- 
less suspicion ?* 

* I do r she said, with all her heart. * We all know that Alda is used 
to admiration ; it comes to her as naturally as pity and help to me, 
and makes no impression on her. Mrs. Underwood likes to have 
him as a fashionable guest, that's all. Oh, Alda could never be so 
wicked !' 

*You are right, Geraldine. Thank you,* he said, just as 
Clement and the younger ones came in search of them, with Fred 
Somers, erst fellow-<:horister, now fellow-Cantab — 2, little wiry 
merry fellow, the very antipodes to his bosom friend. 

All wanted to stay for seven o'clock Evensong ; but Robina was 
clear that it was impossible, since the ladies were dispersing, and 
they had no invitation to the clergy-house. Angela wildly asked 
if Clement could not take them to the Tower, or St Paul's ; 
Cherry could sit in a seat while they went round. 

* Sit in a seat !' cried Robina. * She is tired already. Clement, 
do go and call a cab.' 

* Could you not go to Mrs. Kedge's, Cherry?* asked Clement 
* I want you to hear our Pentecost Hymns.* 

* Come to my rooms,* said Ferdinand. ' They are much nearer ; 
and you shall have tea and ever3rthing in no time.' 

*Like greased lightning!* returned Angel, who always talked 
what she supposed to be Yankee to Ferdinand. * Oh, what fun ! 
Do come, Cherry !' 

* Do come,' repeated Ferdinand, eagerly ; * it is only round the 
comer, no crossing, and no stairs; and you shall have a good 
rest — ^much better than jingling away in a cab.' 

* Thank you ;' and Cherry, looked inquiringly at Robina, whose 



Cha»'. 
XXVI. 



62 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXVI. 



discretion she viewed as little short of Wilmefs. * Would Miss 
Fulmort approve ?* 

* Yes/ said that wise little bird ; * we need only be in by ten. 
You had much better, Cherry. You are quite as good as a brother 
— ^aren't you, Fernan ?' 

In ten minutes more, Mr. Travis's landlady was aghast at the 
procession pouring into her quiet ground-floor; while, after 
insisting on Cherry's installation on a dingy lumpy bumpy sofa, 
their host might be overheard giving orders for a sumptuous lea, 
though not exactly with the genius of Wilmet or Lance. 

He had cast &is anxieties to the winds, and had never shown him- 
self so lively or so much at ease. To all it was a delightful frolic 
Mr. Somers was ftill of fun, and even Clement was gay — ^perhaps 
because Whittingtonia had become a sort of native element to 
him, or else because the oddity of the thing overcame him ; and 
Angela was in an ecstatic state, scarcely kept within bounds by her 
morning's promise to be very good. 

Those dingy bachelor's rooms, close upon the street, and redolent 
of tobacco to the utmost degree, could seldom have re-echoed 
with such girlish fun as while Angela roamed about, saucily 
remarking on the pipes and smoking equipments — relics, not 
disused, of the Life Guard days. So likewise was the beautiful 
little chased silver tea-pot, which was committed to Robin's 
management Indeed, there was a large proportion of plate, 
massive and remarkable. 

* Mexican taste,* said Ferdinand, handing a curious sugar-basia 
* It belonged to my grandmother, and was turned over to me when 
I set up for myself.' 

* What's this on it ?* said Angel. * I declare, 'tis the caldron the 
Mexicans boiled people's hearts in.' 

* For shame. Angel !' said Robin ; *the Aztecs were not cannibals.' 

* I beg your pardon, Bobbie ; I know we read about Cortes 
seeing them cutting out people's hearts on their temples like the 
tower of Babel, because I thought of Fernan.' 

* Hush !' said Cherry, seeing that the horrid subject was 
displeasing. 'There's nothing witty in talking of horrors. 
Besides, is not this the Spanish oUa ?' 

*I believe it is,' answered Ferdinand. *It is the Mendez 



TRANSMUTA TION. 



63 



bearing, and as the Travises can boast of none, I followed my 
spoons.* 

^ With the dish,' said Mr. Somers ; a joke that in their present 
mood set them laughing. 

* Nothing can be more suited to the circumstances,* said Cherry, 
'as the oUa is the emblem of hospitaUty.' 

* What are the three things up above ?* asked Angel ;* * turnips 
going to be stewed ?* 

'• Santiago's cockle-shells, the token of pilgrimage,* said Ferdinand. 

* That's the best part of the coat.' 

*Some day I'll work you a banner-screen, Feman,* said 
Robina ; * but that will be when you impale our Underwood rood.' 

* And the pilgrim is brought to the cross,' said Angela, in one of 
her grave moments of fanciful imagery. 

The echo of her words, however, struck Cherry as conveying 
an innuendo that the child did not mean. Crosses could hardly be 
wanting to one who had Alda for his wife ; but happily no one 
else seemed to perceive it ; and they drifted on from grave to gay, 
and gay back to grave, till it was time to return to the festival 
Evensong. 

Clement and his friends had to hurry away to the station 
directly after. He would have put his three sisters into a cab, and 
sent it home with them ; but Ferdinand insisted on squeezing his 
long limbs into durance and escorting them, to the tune of Angel's 
chatter and the clatter of the windows. Cherry was the first set 
down ; and she went straight to the drawing-room, ready for interest 
and s)rmpathy. 

* How late you are !' said Alda. 

* How did you come ?' asked Marilda. 

* In a cab. It is gone on with the little girls. We stayed for 
evening service. The Ughts were so beautiful 1* 

* Just what boys and girls run after,' said Mr. Underwood. * I 
like my opera to be an opera, and my church to be a church.' 

* Yes,' said Mrs. Underwood, * staying out so late, and in the 
city. I -don't half like such doings.* 

' What could you have done between services ?' added Alda. 

* Were you at the clergy-house all day ?' 

' Of course they were,' said Mr. Underwood. * Trust a 



Cha". 
XXVI. 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXVI. 



curate ,to take care of a pretty girl High or low, they are all 
alike/ 

* No/ said Cherry, in blushing indignation ; * we had tea at Mr. 
Travis's/ 

* Indeed T said Alda. 

And Cherry knew the tone but too well ; and under this plen- 
tiful shower of cold water, perceiving her own fatigue, bade good 
night She was kindly bidden to send Nurse for wine, tea, or 
whatever she needed ; but she was still conscious of displeasure. 

In the morning she was weary and dispirited, and for the first 
time fdt that there was no one to remark, as Felix or Wilmet 
would have done, that she was flagging. Failing this, she prepared 
as usual to go to her class ; but before starting she encountered 
Mrs. Underwood. 

' Geraldine,' said that lady, majestically, ' you are a talented 
young person ; but — ^you must excuse me — I cannot have such 
independence under my roof It is not comifo. Bless me, don't 
tremble so ; I don't mean anything. You meant no harm ; only 
you should have come home, you know, when your brother vrasn't 
there.' 

' But he was !' gasped Geraldine, colouring. 

* Why, wasn't it that young man Travis met you ?' 

* He met us, for Clement was hindered; but Clement was there, 
and was with us all the time.' 

' H'm I That ought to have been explained Why didn't you 
tell your sister ? She is quite distressed.' 

A summons from Mr. Underwood obliged Cherry to hurry away, 
her heart throbbing, her head whirling, and no comfort but hard 
squeezing the ivory back of Lord Gerald ; and when she reached 
Mr. Renville's, her hand was trembling so, that she could not have 
drawn a line if the good hausfrau had not dosed her with the strong 
coffee, which in true German fashion was always ready. Then 
the absorbing interest of her art revived her; and she returned 
home, cheered, and believing that the misunderstanding was 
cleared up. 

Indeed, Mrs. Underwood was as good-natiured as ever; and Alda 
was chiefly employed in rejecting all the solicitations to accompany 
the party to Morecombe House, and rebutting the remonstrancef 



TRANSMUTA 7701/. 



65 



on the incivDity to Mr. Grinstead ; to which Marilda had yielded, 
but grumblmg loudly at the bore of seeing pictures and taking no 
pains to conceal that she was cross and angry with Cherry for 
having brought it upon her. 

Poor Cherry ! Of the few parties of pleasure of her life, this 
was that which most reminded her of the old woman of Servia ! 
After having Marilda's glum face opposite througii tlie drive,, she 
was indeed most kindly welcomed by Mr. Grinstead; but how 
could she enjoy the attention that was so great a kindness and 
honour, when every pause before a picture was a manifest injury 
to her companions ? 

Mrs. Underwood indeed had occupation in peeping under 
hoUand covers, estimating the value of carpets and curtains, and 
admiring the gilt frames ; but this did not hold out as long as the 
examination of each favourite picture in detail; and what was 
worse, Marilda plumped herself down in the first chair in each 
room, and sat poking the floor with her parasol, the model of glum 
discontent How could the mind be free for the Madonna's 
celestial calm, or the smiling verisimilitude of portraiture? how 
respond or linger, when the very language of art was mere 
uninteresting jargon to impatient captives, who thought her 
comprehension mere affectation ? While to all other discomforts 
must be added the sense of missing one of the best opportunities 
of her life, and of ill responding to a gracious act of condescension^ 

She came home tired to death, and with a bad headache, that 
no one took the trouble to remark ; and she dressed for dinner 
with a sense that it mattered to no one how she felt 

Just as she was ready, Marilda came gravely in, sitting down in 
preparation. Cherry felt, for something dreadful; but even her 
imagination failed to depict the fact 

' Geraldine,* was the beginning, * Alda wishes you to hear that 
she has put an end to the engagement' 

Cherry absolutely screamed, *Oh, oh, don't let her do that ! It 
would be so dreadful !' 

Marilda looked severe. * I don't suppose you thought what it 
was coming to.' 

* O ! I have often been sorry to see things, but it seemed so 
atrocious to think so.* 

VOL. II. F 



Chaf. 
XXVL 



66 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Crap. 
XXVI 



* Then you must have known you were doing wrong.' 

* What — ^how — ^what have I done ? I don't know what you 
meani' 

* Indeed I It is of no use to look frightened and innocent 
Perhaps you did not mean anything ; but when it grew so marked, 
Alda could not but feel it' 

*What? Does Alda mean thatV cried Cherry, starting up, 
scailet with horror. 

* Now I see you understand. She is terribly hurt She excuses 
it, for she says you have been so petted all your life, that you don't 
know the right bounds.' 

' And can you really think this of me ?' moaned she. 

* It is just like every one when they have the chance — ^no one 
ever means it,' said Marilda. 

* Oh r cried Cherry, as a fresh horror came across her, * but if 
Alda thinks ever so horridly of me, how can she doubt him ? Oh, 
stop her, stop her I Let me only tell her how he talked of her 
yesterday 1 His whole soul is full of her. Oh, stop her, Marilda, 
dol' 

* It is of no use,' said Marilda ; * she has sent her letter. She 
was resolved to do nothing hastily, so she went this morning and 
saw the little girls.' 

* Oh, oh r broke in Cherry, with another cry of pain. * Those 
poor children have not been brought into trouble again ?' 

* No ; it was no doing of theirs ; but when she perceived the 
exclusive attention that — ^when she found,' hesitated Marilda, for- 
getting her lesson, * how you had been sitting in the cloister — ^in 
short, how it had all gone on — she said it was the finishing stroke.' 

* Oh r a sigh or groan, as if stabbed; then with spirit, * but 
why wasn't she there herself? He only took me for want of her I 
He only speaks to me because I am her sister. He was so unhappy 
— I was trying to cheer him.' 

^ So you might think ; but that's the way those things run on. 
There's the gong 1' 

Cherry rose, but felt Uiat sitting at table would end in faintness , 
and Marilda went away in doubt, between pity and displeasure, 
whether at contrition or afiectation. 

No sooner was the dooi shut, and Cherry alone, than a terrible 



TRANSMUTA TJON. 



67 



hysterical agony came on. There was personal sense of humiliation 
— ^passionate anger, despair, for Ferdinand's sake — miserable 
loneliness and desertion. She felt as if she were in a house full of 
enemies ; and had absolute difficulty in restraining screams for 
Felix to come and take her home. The physical need of Wilmet 
or Sibby, to succour and soothe her agitation and exhaustion, soon 
became so great as to overpower the mental distress ; but she 
would not call or ring ; and when Mrs. Sturt came, the kind woman 
made as if the headache accounted for all 

She reported that Miss Alda likewise had gone to her room with 
a headache ; and Cherry saw no one but Mrs. Underwood, who 
looked in to offer impossible remedies, and be civilly but stiffly 
compassionate. 

The stifled hysteria was much worse for Geraldine than free tears. 
She had a weary night of wretched dream fancies, haunted by 
Ferdinand's sombre face, convulsed with rage, and tormented by 
the belief that she had done something so frightful as to put her 
out of the pale of humanity ; nor was it till long after daylight 
that she could so collect her ideas as to certify herself that if she 
had done wrong, it had at least been unwittingly ; but even then 
she was in a misery of shame, and of the most intense longing for 
her brother or sister to defend and comfort her. 

She managed to rise and dress ; but she was far too unwell to 
attempt the classes for the day. Alda spoke coldly ; and she crept 
away, to lie on the sofa in the old school-room, trusting that before 
post-time her hand might grow steady enough to write an entreaty 
to be taken home, and longing— oh ! longing more every hour for 
Edgar, and still he did not come ! Marilda looked in, began to 
believe her really ill, grew compassionate, asked how she treated 
such attacks, deemed her penitent, and began to soothe her as if 
she was a naughty baby. Then, in desperation, Cherry ventured 
to ask what had been heard of him — Mr. Travis. He had been at 
the door — ^he had taked no refusal — had forced an interview — he 
was gone. Alda was in her own room, bolted in. Marilda had 
not seen her since. 

Cherry shook from head to foot, and quivered with suppressed 
strangling sobs, as the shame of such a requital for the sacrifice of 
Ferdinand's whole career agonised her at one moment, and at 

F 2 



Chap. 
XXVL 



o8 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXVI. 



another she was terrified at the possible effect on that fervid 
nature. 

Oh, that long, long piteous day ! She never did write — never 
even felt as if she could sit up to guide a pen. At last Alda came 
in, with a strange awe-struck paleness about her face, as if she had 
gone through something terrible; and in a tone that sounded 
unnatural, said, ' Come, Cherry, don't give way so. I didn't mean 
to accuse you. People don't always know what they are doing. 
I am thankful on my own account.' 

Cherry had longed for a kind word ; but this sort of pardon was 
like Alda's taking the advantage of her when Felix was not there 
to protect her. Not naturally meek, she iiiras too much shaken to 
control a voice that sounded more Uke temper than sorrow. * You 
have no right to accuse me at all, as if I were a traitor !' 

* Not a deliberate traitor, my dear,' said Alda, in a voice of 
candour ; * certainly not ; but you don't know the advantage help- 
lessness and cleverness give over us poor beauties who show oui 
best at first. I blame no one for using their natural weapons.' 

* Don't, Alda !' cried Cherry, with the sharpness of keen offence. 
* You may keep that speech for those you got it up for !' 

* Well, if you are in such a mood as that, nobody can talk to 
you,' said Alda, going away, and leaving her to a worse paroxysm 
of misery than before, and an inexpressible sense of desolation, 
passing into an almost frantic craving for Edgar, to make him 
take her home. 

Marilda gave a little relief by telling her that he was sent for ; 
but after long expectation, word came that he was not at home, 
nor did his landlady know when he would return. 

By this time it was too late to send a letter \ and Cherry began 
to feel ashamed of having so given way, and to think of exerting 
herself to recover, if only to be in a condition to go home when 
Edgar should be found ; so she made an effort to remember the 
remedies with which she was wont to be passively dosed by 
Wilmet, went to bed, and tried hard to put herself to sleep. 
Though it was long before she effectually succeeded, she was 
much calmer in the morning, deeply wounded indeed, but trying 
to accept the imputation that her habit of expecting aid might 
have led her into what had given umbrage to Alda, and that self 



TRANSMUTA TION, 



69 



immolation might yet heal the misunderstanding, and the desire to 
plead with Alda seemed to brace her nerves ; but ' Alda was not 
attainable. She only just came in, in her habit, while Mrs. Sturt 
was dres^ng Cherry, and said that she had such a headache, that 
she must take a country ride ; and Cherry, who felt as if she had 
been under a stampede of wild horses, could only just crawl to the 
sofa, and lie there ; while the whole family were in such wholesome \ 
dread of that dumb hysteria, that they were as tender as they knew 
how to be, and abstained from all reference to the previous day. 

The afternoon had come on the weary, home-sick, exhausted 
spirit, when a springy step came along the corridor, a light airy 
rap struck the door, and a tall, lithe, yet strong form, and a pair of 
kind smiling eyes, brought the sense of love and guardianship that 
the spoilt child of home had been pining for. She had yesterday 
meant to cry out to him, ' O Edgar, take me home !' but she did 
not speak, only looked up, glad and relieved. 

* Why, Cherry,' as he kissed her hot brow, and caressingly held 
her limp cold hand, * it seems to be the family fashion to suffer by 
proxy for these Httle catastrophes. Who is to take to his or her 
bed when some Indian spinster hooks W. W.'s engineer?* 

* Hush, Edgar ! Have you seen him f 

* Have not I ?' 

* Ah, I knew you must be with him, when they could not find you !' 

* Me ? No ; I had enough of it the night before ! I had had too 
nanow an escape of getting my neck wrung for declining to act as 
go-between, to subject myself to the same again, and went off 
with some fellows to Richmond — only came back an hour ago.* 

* 0, Edgar ! if you had but tried — ^ 

* Take my advice. Cherry. Never put your foot into a boiling 
cauldron ! Besides, don't you know perfectly well that never was 
there a worse matched pair ? St. Anthony and Venus attired by 
the Graces ; and very little more attire could he give her. If dear 
old Blunderbore had had a grain of common sense he would have 
told them so a year ago ; and I should have thought even you 
could have seen it to be a happy release.' 

* I see you don't know the cause — ^ 

* Visible enough to the naked eye !' And Edgar, in imitation of 
Theodore, hummed * Mynheer van Dunck.' 



Chaj". 
XXVI. 



70 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXVL 



* For shame, Edgar ! Oh no ! it is only what could be mended, 
if you would but show her that I — that he — ^that he only was kind 
to me for her sake. If she would only hear what he was saying to 
me ! but she won't ! Just set it straight ; and then, please — ^please 
take me home/ 

* Well/ said Edgar, as he gathered the drift of her broken 
phrases, spoken with her face hidden on his shoulder, ' this is as 
nasty, spiteful a trick as Alda ever played ! He said she put it on 
some motive of jealousy — and she always was a jealous toad \ but 
I never guessed at this ! Never mind, Ch^rie. She only wanted a 
pretext, and you came first to hand. I'll let her know what I 

think of it — and Polly too !' 

* But, indeed, I don't think I was guarded enough.' 

* Of course you don't You and Tina think yourselves the most 
heavenly-minded when you can accuse yourselves of anything 
utterly ridiculous.* 

* It was what she heard from Robin and Angel.* 

* The marplots of the family — little minxes !' said Edgar, with a 
bitterness she was sorry to' have provoked. * No,' he added, ' not 
marplots in this case. I see it all as plain as a pikestaff I Felix 
having shown his usual refi^eshing innocence by leaving Alda in this 
predicament, she had to get out of it as best she could ; so she 
trumps up this charge between Robin's prudery and Angel's 
chatter; nor would I have blamed her a bit if she had only 
flourished it in his eyes; but to poison Marilda with it, and 
annihilate you — I can't forgive that 1' 

*• Oh, but she believes it.* 

* If she gets up a Httle delusion — a slight screen to the Mynheer 
— she ought to keep it to herself.' 

. * I shall try to write it all properly to her when I get home.' 

* Home ! You aren't going to be ill ?* 

* No ; but I can't stay after all this — to be looked on in this 
way.' 

* 111 settle that' 

* You can't expose Alda.' 

* I shall expose hei no more than I have done fifty times before. 
Don't be afraid. We understand one another — Polly, Alda, 
and I.' 



TRANSMUTA TIOI^. 



71 



^ Don't defend me i I had so much rather go back.' 

* Of course i but you need not be a little goose. You did not 
come here for pleasure, but business. And is this great genius to 
be stifled because Alda talks a little unjustifiable nonsense ?* 

* Do you think Felix and Wilmet would tell me to stay ?* 

* Wilmet certainly would Felix might be tempted to take his 
baby home to rock ; but even he has sense enough to tell you that 
the only way to deal with such things is tol)razen them out' 

* I haven't got any brass.' 

* Then you must get some. Seriously, Cherry, it would be very 
silly to go flying home, throwing up all your opportunities, and the 
very thing to give some vraisemblance to Alda's accusation. If I 
had only been here yesterday, I'd have choked it in the throat of 
her, and hindered you from caring a straw ; but I didn't want to 
meet Travis in his exies.' 

* I wish you would really tell me about him — ^poor dear Feman ! ' 

* Take care I That looks suspicious. Well, poor fellow ! the 
Mexican is strong in him. Grattez lui ever so slightly. Well for 
Mynheer that he is not out with him on a prairie, with a revolver ! 
But, whereas Audley and Felix caught him in time to make a spoon 
out of a bowie-knife, I don't expect much to happen, beyond my 
distraction from his acting caged panther in my room till two 
o'clock that night !' 

*He came here and saw her yesterday. Have you seen him 
since ?* 

No ; Edgar had kept out of the way, and would not talk of him ; 
but stood over his sister, wishing to soothe and relieve the little 
thing, for whom he cared more than for all the lovers put together, 
and whose wan exhausted looks, visible suffering, and nervous 
shudders he could not bear to see. * I wish you weren't too big 
for rocking, Baby,' he said. And then he sat down to the piano, 
playing and singing a low soft lullaby, which at last brought quiet 
sleep to the refreshment of the harassed mind and weaiy frame. 

llie hum of conversation in an undertone at length gradually 
roused her. 

' The long and short of it is, that she was tired of it' 

* But she wouldn't have invented such a story.* 

' I never said she invented it 1 She's not so stupid but that she 



Chap. 

•xxvi 



72 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXVI. 



can put a gloss on a I^King ; and you know she hates to have a civil 
word said to any one but hersdif— particularly to that poor little 
dear,* 

* Then it wasn't right to let him be always running after her.' 

* Stuff 1 The/d been cronies ever since he was first caught ; in 
fact, she was one of the tame elephants that licked him into shape, 
long before he set eyes on either of you. No stuflf about it at all ; 
they are just like brother and sister. The poor child would no 
more be capable of such a thing than that lay figure of hers — 
hasn't it in her ; and for you to go and bully her T 

* Well/ in a half-puzzled, half-angered tone, * that's what Alda 
sa3rs. She declares she only told me, and never meant me to speak 
to her about the cause.' * 

* She wanted to play off the injured heroine ; and you — ^not 
being up to such delicate subtilties, walked off to speak your 
mind. Eh !' 

* I thought I ought' 

* You put your great thumb on a poor little May-fly, just as if it 
had been a tortoise I' 

* I'm sure I bad no notion she would be so unhappy; all girls 
do such things ; and most are proud of it I was only disappointed 
to find her like the rest ; but I'd no notion she would cry herself 
ill.' 

Here Geraldine's senses became sufficiently clear to make her 
aware that she was the topic, and ought to rouse herself, no longer 
to let the discussion mingle with her dreams. With some effort 
she opened her eyes, and saw Edgar astride on the music-stool, and 
Marilda leaning on the mantel-shelf. 

* I'm awake,' she drowsily said. 

* To the battle over your prostrate body,' said Edgar. ' Go to 
sleep again, little one. Polly is very sorry, and won't do so no 
more.' 

* She didn't say so, Edgar,' said Cherry ; * and if I had really done 
so^ she ought to have been a great deal more angry with me.' 

'Well, Geraldine,' said Marilda, *I believe, whatever you did, 
you didn't know it ; and I know I was hard on you. My father 
and mother don't know anything about it— only that it is off — ' 

* And that they rightly ascribe to Alda's good sense,' said Edgar. 



TRANSMUTA TION. 



n 



This much relieved Cherry, who had thought it impossible to 
remain where she was, viewed as a traitor to her own sister. It 
wounded lier, indeed, that Marilda should merely condone the 
offence, instead of acquitting her; but when she recollected the 
probabihty that Marilda had suflfered the like treatment from Alda, 
who was nevertheless loved so heartily, it began to dawn upon her 
that there was a disposition to view the offence as common, natural, 
and light, rather than not excuse the offender. She despised her 
cousin for lowering the standard to suit a favourite, and was sure 
she should never be comfortable again till she got home ; but she 
was reasonable enough to perceive the force of what Edgar had 
shown her — as to the folly of forsaking her studies, and abandoning 
the advantages offered to her ; and his kindness had much cheered 
her; so she said no more about going home, and resinned her 
former habits, though feeling that Marilda's patronizing cordiality 
was gone, and that Alda was simply cold and indifferent 

She felt especially unwilling to face the two little girls, who, 
seemed to have acted as false witnesses against her; but an 
imploring note from Robina besought her to call ; and on arriving 
in the parlour, where interviews were allowed, she was greeted 
with, * O Cherry, is it true ? and was that why Alda came here ?* 

Then she found that they had heard from home of the rupture 
of the engagement ; and that they had immediately connected it 
with Alda's extraordinary visit of the week previous. 

' She came to bring us a cake,' said Robin ; * but as she never 
did so before, I thought something was at the bottom of it, and that 
she just wanted to hear more about Ferdinand and his lodgings.' 

* And,' added Angel, who, if less sensible, was far before Robina 
in a certain irregular precocity, * I thought I'd get a rise out of her, 
and chaff her a little. She used to be so savage last year, when- 
ever Feman treated you with common humanity.' 

* Angel, how could you !' 

* You don't mean that it did the harm ! Bobbie said so ; but I 
didn't think Alda could be so silly as to think it in earnest, 
Cherry.' 

' Angel, you have been playing with edge-tools.' 

* Cherry, tell me what you mean 1' Angela pounced on both 
her arms, as if to shake it out of her. 



Chap. 
XXVI. 



74 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXVI. 



* Never do such a thing again, AngeL You cannot tell what 
you may be doing.' 

* Well, if any one could be so stupid ! So dense, as not to see 
it was fun 1 Now, Robin — ^ 

* I think,* said the practical Robin, * that all you can do, is to 
write down a full confession that you meant to teaze Alda.' 

* Yes, yes, yes,' cried Angela, with less shame than Cherry would 
have thought possible, * I will ! I will ! and then the/ll make it up. 
Who would have thought Alda could have been so easily taken in ? 
But how shall I do it unknownst to the harpies ?' 

Cherry offered a pencil, and a bit of her drawing-block. She 
made no suggestion, thinking that the more characteristic the 
confession was, the more it would prove its authenticity. Angela 
retired into a window, and wrote, in her queer unformed hand : 

I, Angela Margaret Underwood, hereby confess that whatever I told 
Alda, my sister, about Geraldine and F. T., was all cram ; and if I did it too 
well, I'm very sorry for it. F, T. didn't take a bit more notice of Cherry than 
of Robin and me ; and of course he cannot marry the three of us : and of 
course it was all right, for Clement was there. Ask him. 

Witness my hand, 

Angela Margaret Underwood. 

Then she called, * Come and witness it, Robin.' 

' Nonsense,' said Robina ; and coming to look, she exclaimed, 

* you have made it simply ridiculous. This will do no good ! — See, 
Cherry.' 

But Cherry would not have it altered, and merely bade Robina 
write her testimony. 

• This took much lo?iger, though the produce was much briefer. 
It was only — 

My dear Alda, 

Angela was only talking nonsense the other day. If I had not thought 
so, I would have told you. 

Your affectionate sister, 

Robina B. Underwood. 

* You've made a letter of it 1' exclaimed Angela. * I thought it 
was to be a last will and — no, a d)dng speech and confession ; 
which is it ? Well, if that does not set it all straight, I can't tell 
what will !' 



DON OR AfYNfTEERf 



IS 



Cherry was a good deal perplexed by the testimony now she 
aad obtained it. She thought the matter over on her return, and 
ended by seeking Marilda ; and with much excuse for Angela, 
putting it into her hands to show to Alda. She felt it due to her- 
self to make sure that Marilda saw it, such as it was. 

Marilda undertook that Alda should see it Geraldine watched 
and waited. There was no apology to herself. At that she did 
not wonder. Was there any note of recall sounded to Ferdinand ? 
Was Alda proud? or was she in very truth indifferent, and 
unwilling to give up her excuse for a quarrel ? or had she really 
relented, and apologized in secret ? 

It was strange to know so little, and venture so much less with 
her own sister than could Marilda,- whom, in their present stiflF 
reserve, Cherry durst not question. 



CHAPTER XXVII. 

DON OR MYNHEER? 

* Hear the truth— 
A lame girl's truth, whom no one ever praised 
For being patient.* 

George Elliot, 

One morning, after a private interview with Alda, Mr. Underwood 
entered the drawing-room, hilariously announcing that Alda was a 
lucky girl this time, for now she had a man in no fear of his 
relations. 

Geraldine was glad of the need of getting into the carriage 
directly, and that her transit to Mr. Renville's was too brief for 
any answer to be needed to her companion's warm satisfaction. 
Affairs of this sort had come so thickly upon the family in the 
course of the last eighteen months, that she did not feel the 
excitement of novelty ; and she wished so little to dwell on the 
present, that at the museum, the absorbing interest of her life-study 
drove out the immediate recollection of the stranger life-study she 
had left. 

There could be no question as to the veritable cause of Alda's 
conduct to Ferdinand ; but Cherry was too much ashamed of it to 



Chap. 
XXVI 



Chap. 
XXVIL 



76 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXVII. 



rejoice in her own justification, scarcely even hoping that Marilda 
would perceive it 

Most likely Alda would have preferred staving off the crisis a 
little longer — at least till those keen eyes were out of sight — ^but 
she had now to do with a man whose will it was not easy to parry, 
and whom delay and co)rness might have driven off altogether. 
Cherry did not see her till they met at luncheon ; and there was 
Sir Adrian, who promoted the little lame girl to a shake of the 
hand. Alda looked gracious and unusually handsome, being, in 
fact, relieved from a state of fretting uneasiness ; Mrs. Underwood 
was beaming with triumph ; Marilda — again there is no word for 
it but — ^glum 1 

There was a rose show at the Botanic Gardens ; but Cherry had 
declined it, and Marilda immovably refused to go. After they 
had seen the other two ladies set off, resplendent under Sir Adrian's 
escort, Marilda announced her intention of driving, as she often 
did, to the City, to fetch her father home, and, more cordially than 
of late, offered a seat to Cherry, if she did not mind waiting. 

The City to Cherry's ears meant Ferdinand, whom she would 
not face for worlds j but she told herself that it was not like 
Bexley, where every one who went to the bank was sure to be 
presently seen at Froggatf s, and she would not reject this advance 
from her cousin. 

Indeed, Marilda wanted to talk, and freely told all she had been 
hearing. The baronetcy was in the third generation, having been 
conferred on the original transmuter, a Lord Mayor, with whom 
his son had toiled for J;he larger half of his days, and comparatively 
late had bought an estate, and married a lady of quality. He had 
not long survived, and his widow liad remarried. Of her nothing 
more was known i but her son was so entirely his own master, that 
her opposition was not likely to be dangerous. Sir Adrian had 
the reputation of great wealth ; and though he partook of the usual 
amusements of young men, there was no reason to suppose that he 
did so to an extent that he could not afford. Altogether, it was a 
brilliant conquest; but *How one does hate it alii' concluded 
Marilda. 

This was all the amends Cherry received for the reproach that 
had so keenly wounded her. Probably Marilda had really dis- 



BON OR MYNHEER f 



11 



missed the charge ; but hers was not a fine-grained mind, used to 
self-examination or analysis; and she acted on a momentary 
impression, without much regard to the past or to consistency. 
Her affections were deep and strong; but partly from circum- 
stances they were hke those of a dog, depending rather on contact 
than esteem. She had accepted Edgar and Alda as brother and 
sister, and whatever they did, stood by them with all her might ; 
nor did she ever so much as realize that Alda had been wrong, 
and she herself misled. She would rather believe it the way of 
the world, and part of the nature of things, than open her mind to 
blame Alda. 

Besides, the sense of not understanding Cherry, and the 
recollection of the effect produced on her by words apparently 
quite inadequate, the seeing her power of talking to and amusing 
gentlemen with whom she herself had not an idea in common, 
Edgaf s tender fervent pride in her, and Alda's half-contemptuous 
acknowledgment of her ability — all this contributed to give 
Marilda a certain shyiiess, awe, and constraint, that sometimes 
looked cold, and sometimes cross, and puzzled Cherry, who never 
dreamt of being formidable. 

When they reached the house of business, Marilda went to her 
fathers room, for since his illness she often helped him to wind up 
his correspondence ; and Cherry sat in the carriage, her attention 
divided between a book and the busy traffic of the street 

Presently she saw a tall lean figure in black, with a deeply-cut 
sallow fece set in grey whiskers. She knew it for the Vicar of 
St Matthew's; and he, after bowing and passing, turned, and coming 
to the window, said, * Will you kindly tell me the right address to 
Mr. Audtey, in Australia ? Clement left it with me, but I have 
mislaid it.' 

*The Rev. C. S. Audley, Carrigaboola, Albertstown, West 
Australia.' And as he repeated it with thanks, she could not 
restrain herself from stretching out a hand in entreaty, and saying, 
* Oh ! pray, pray tell me ! How is he ? Mr. Travis ?' 

* Your eldest brother's letter has done him a great deal of 
good.' 

' Please tell me about him,' implored Cherry, colouring. * We 
have known him for so long before. How does he bear it ?' 



Chap. 
XXVII. 



78 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXVII. 



Mr. Fulmort let himself into the carriage, and sat down by her, 
saying, ^ He is bearing it as you could most wish«' 

* I longed to know. I feared it would be very terrible. His is 
not an English nature.' 

' It has been a great struggle. That first night he never went 
home at all^ but wandered about till daylight. I found him at five 
in the morning, sunk down on his knees in our porch, with his head 
against the church door, in a sort of exhausted doze.' 

* Oh, well that he knew the way T sighed Cherry. * No one ever 
was so cruelly treated !' she added with frowning vehemence. * And 
then?' 

^ I took him to my rooms, and made him rest, and I went to 
Brown's and excused his non-attendance. By the time he went to 
your sister he had quite mastered himself.' 

^ He must She never told about it ; but we are sure she was 
quite overawed.' 

* He came back quite calm, with a certain air of secresy, and 
has gone on with a sort of stem quietness ever since,' said the 
Vicar, lowering his voice. * Only on Sunday — he is one of our 
collectors at the OfFeitory — ^he brought up his alms-bag bursting 
with bracelets and rings, and things of that sort' 

* Poor Feman 1 how like him to do it in that way 1' 

* I think it relieved him. He is perfectly free of bitterness 
towards your sister — allows no flaw in her ; but he is striving hard 
not to retain animosity against your uncle.' 

* It is deserved by no one but her 1' exclaimed Cherry; * and 
there's worse to come. I don't know whether I ought to mention 
it ; but it will be better for it to come to him from you.' 

*// is true, then?' said Mr. Fulmort, understanding her directly. 
* My sister told me it was reported.' 

* It was only settled yesterday evening. I am afraid this is 
worse for him than if it had been any one else.' 

* So am I. It seems to be the crisis of a long emulatioiu I 
begged Aston — ^my brother-in-law — to ascertain what was thought 
about it in the corps ; and he said that though poor Travis had 
never got on well with the other men, there was a general feeling 
that he was not handsomely treated.' 

* That wretched man betted — ' 



DON OR MYNHEER i 



79 



Mr. Fulmort kindly but decidedly checked her. * You had better 
not dwell on such reports. Things for which we are not responsible 
must be made the best of when they bring us new connections. 
Our friend is not unprepared, and I will take care he does not hear 
this casually.' 

* Thank you — oh ! thank you 1 Give him my — ^ she caught 
herself up and blushed — * my very best remembrances ; and tell 
him,' she added, carried away in spite of herself, * that he must 
always be like one of ourselves.' 

* It will be a great comfort to him. Nothing can exceed his 
affection and gratitude to your family — ^indeed he said, with tears 
in his eyes, that to your brothers he " owes his very self also." I 
hope nothing will disturb that friendship.' 

* What will he do ? Set about some great work somewhere ?* 
Mr. Fulmort smiled sadly. ^ It is not safe to rush into great 

works to allay disappointment,' he said. ^ I think he is wiser to 
keep steadily to his occupation, at least for the present ; but he is 
giving his whole leisure to his district and the evening classes, I 
am glad to have met you. Good-bye.* 

It was lucky that Cherry had plenty of time to subside before 
the return of Marilda and her father. The latter was much 
exalted by the explanation he had had with Sir Adrian and his 
man of business. The rent-roll was all that could be desired, and 
so were the proposed settlements ; nor was there any fear on the 
score of the family. The lawyer privately told Mr. Underwood 
that the mother, Lady Mary Murray, was a most gentle lady, 
without a spark of pride, and very anxious to see her son married. 

Nor did her letter belie this assurance. She expressed gladness 
that her son's choice should be a clergyman's daughter, and warmly 
invited Alda to come and visit her at the Rectory, and make herself 
at home among the new brothers and sisters there. 

It was gathered — ^partly from Sir Adrian, partly from gossip — 
that Lady Mary, a scantily-portioned maiden, had been too timid 
ind docile to withstand the parental will, which devoted her to the 
wealthy old baronet ; but in her widowhood she had followed the 
inclination that had been pooh-poohed by her family in her girlhood. 
As a coimtry clergyman's wife, her homely quiet existence had less 
and less influence over her son ; and there was no danger of Alda 



Chap. 
XXVIL 



8o 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXVII. 



finding in her an imperious mother-in-law, though, except as a con- 
necting link, she would be valueless as an introduction. She was 
absolutely foolish enough to be romantically delighted at her son's 
manying for love ; and Geraldine fell in love with her on the 
spot, on reading her letter — one of the very few which Alda showed, 
for in general she kept her correspondence to her herself. She 
avoided Cherry, and only talked to Marilda of externals. 

Nothing was to be definitively arranged till Felix had come to 
London, and given his approval to the draught of the settlements, 
of which he and Mr. Murray were to be trustees. He was so much 
grieved and ashamed, that much urging from Wilmet was needed 
to convince him that he ought not to leave the whole to Tom 
Underwood ; but as a counterpoise there was Cherry to see — and 
oh I joy of joys ! to fetch home. So he consented to go up on a 
Saturday afternoon, and return on Tuesday ; and thus it was, that 
one evening in July Cherry was gathered into his arms, murmuring 
* Felicissimo mio, what an age it is since I have had you !' 

Good-natured Mrs. Underwood had made it a family party, 
including Robina and Angela, the worthy dame having little notion 
how slightly they appreciated the honour, nor how curiosity, and 
love of Felix and a holiday, contended with very tumultuous and 
angry sensations. That Alda had never taken the smallest notice 
of Angela's confession, did not render her cold kiss the pleasanter, 
nor the circle less awful as the party sat round, awaiting the arrival 
of Sir Adrian. There they were, nine uncomfortable people, sitting 
on gilded blue damask chairs, too few and too far apart for a com- 
fortable whisper ; the two youngest very conscious of their best 
white frocks ; the two eldest — the one in a flurry of anxiety and 
suspense, the other in a fi*et of impatience and testiness; and 
Marilda — ^having announced her opinion that Sir Adrian would shirk 
it, and not come at all — in a state of glumness. Edgar, however 
— an exception both to the discomfort and the seat — ^threw himself 
into the breach with the story of the mysterious disappearance of 
a nun, (Cherry suspected it of being ben trovato for the nonce,) 
and when that was worn out, and the master of the house insisted 
on ringing for dinner, and the mistress was almost in tears at his 
hunger and temper, and her own fear of rudeness, while Marilda 
only xleclared that it was no more than the due of tardiness, 



DON OR MYNHEER? 



81 



it was Edgar alone who had strength of mind to declare that 
patience ought to end, and to pull the bell. 

The guest arrived with the dinner, looking so sulky about the 
eyes, that Cherry suspected him of having delayed while pit)ring 
himself for the ante-nuptial infliction of this party. However, he 
proved to have some justification, for a little stiffness of movement 
in giving his arm to Mrs. Underwood elicited that he had bruised 
his shoulder in a fall ; and that good lady, pursuing the subject with 
less tact than solicitude, drew from him that he had been mounting 
at his banker's door, when his horse shied, and got its head away 
from the groom, but was caught at once by a clerk sort of 
fellow. A showy brute, with an uncertain temper. He should get 
rid of it 

Angela had been nudging Edgar all the time, to make him ask 
what horse it was ; and as he turned a deaf ear; her voice erected 
itself with the shrill pert sound that is the misfortune of girlhood — 
' Was it Brown Murad ?' 

Sir Adrian had to look to find out where the voice came from 
before he answered in the affirmative. 

* Then he isn't a brute at all !' said the same voice, with great 
decision, ' He is as gentle as a lamb, and will eat bread out of 
your hand if you know how to use him properly !* 

Her cheeks were crimson, and she was greatly displeased that 
Edgar and Geraldine should both begin talking of other things with 
all their might. 

Sir Adrian had more of the art of conversation than poor 
Ferdinand ; and as politics came up, Edgar declared himself to 
have become a voluntary victim to unanimity between the three 
contracting powers, who had harmoniously joined in rending his 
carcase. He left them, nearly as soon as the ladies did, to 
discuss the business part of the affair, and came to the aid of 
Cherry and Robina, who were vainly trying to convince Angela 
of the inexpedience of her outbreak, and obtaining in return 
the sentiment, * I don't care what he does to Alda. It is her 
choice, but not poor dear Brown Murad's, that he has got such a 
master 1' 

* You have done your best to make him fare worse.' 

* Now, Edgar, you only want to frighten me.' 

VOL. II. o 



Chap. 
XXVII. 



82 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXVII. 



* No. If Vanderkist does not entirely forget the pertness of an 
enfant terrible^ it will just add another sting to his dislike of the poor 
beast' • 

Angela fairly burst into tears, and ran away to the school-room, 
whence she returned with a bearing so magnanimous and des- 
perate, that Cherry and Robina dreaded lest she should be medi- 
tating an apology and an appeal on behalf of the horse ; so that 
they were much relieved when the carriage came to take the young 
ladies home, before the consultation in the dining-room broke up. 
Even then Angel did not wholly abstain, but when Alda gave her 
mechanical kiss, she said, *Alda, please don't let Sir Adrian be 
unkind to that poor dear horse !' 

* Silly child ! What fancies you take into your head !* said Alda, 
laughing, with a good-humoured superiority such as she had not 
shown at home. * You need not fear but that whatever belongs to 
him is made happy.' 

Angela returned an unfeigned look of astonishment, and 
exclaimed, ' After all, I do believe you are really in love with 
him!' 

* Angel,' said Edgar, putting his hand on her shoulder, * I called 
you an enfunt terrible just now; but you are too big for that 
indulgence, unless you mean to be equally hateful to friend and 
foe.' 

Angela shook off his hand, and tossed her head disrespectfully, 
but went off in silence. Sir Adrian only came upstairs to say he 
had promised to look in on Lady Somebody ; and Alda bade good 
night as soon as he was gone. She had evidently nothing to say 
to Felix that night, nor the next morning, though he waited about 
after breakfast to give her the opportunity; accompanied the 
family to their very dry church ; and tiien, announcing hjs intention 
of repairing to St Matthew's, was seen no more — ^not even at 
dinner-time, when his absence was somewhat resented by his hosts, 
and vexed Cherry a good deal. 

However, he appeared before ten o'dcok, made an apology about 
his unexpected detention, and when the family circle broke up 
obeyed Cherry's wistful look, and followed her to her roomu 

* Was is it about Feman ?' she asked. 

* The clerk sort of fellow who stopped the horse ?' 



DON OR MYNHEER f 



85 



* It did cross me, but I thought it too good to be true. How 
was it ?' 

* He had been sent on some business to the bank, and was 
almost at the door when Sir Adrian came out The groom may 
have been holding the horse carelessly. Sir Adrian spoke angrily ; 
the horse started, got his head free, and reared, throwing him down 
with his foot in the stirrup, so that he would have been dragged if 
Feraan had not got hold of the bridle, and his voice quieted poor 
Brown Murad in a moment' 

* Dear good fellow ! I hope Sir Adrian did not punish him.* 

* He is too valuable for that, I hope ; but Sir Adrian did not 
spare abuse to man or beast, and threw a thank-you to Ferdinand 
as if he did not recognise him. Most likely we should never have 
heard of the adventure if it had not jarred the weak place in poor 
Feman's back. He did not find it out at first, and stayed at 
his work the rest of the day; but it has been getting worse 
ever since, and I found him on the sofa, lengthened out with a 
chair.' 

* That most horrible of sofas — all bars and bumps ! Poor 
Feraan !' 

* He only told me he haid got a sprain in catching a rearing 
horse ; and then I leapt to the conclusion, and made him tell me. 
He says he has hurt himself in the same way before, and that the 
Life Guards' surgeon told him there was nothing for it but rest' 

' Rest, indeed ! like St. Lawrence's gridiron — all but the fire 1 
What did you do for him ?' 

* Wished for Wilmet, and remembered Lance's telling me that I 
was of no use to myself nor any one else.' 

* Fancy Lance saying that ! But you didn't really do nothing ?' 
' Luckily Edgar came in search of me, and showed what resource 

is. He had up the landlady, and as usual captivated her She 
produced a mattress, and Edgar routed out some air-cushions that 
Feman had used before, and they made him much more comfort- 
able. I want to take him home, but he does not think he can bear 
the journey.' 

* No,' said Cherry ; ' and he would be always in the way of 
hearing about this; but it is dreadful to have him laid up in that 
dismal hole.' 

G 2 



Cha^*. 
XXVII. 



b4 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXVII. 



* I ran round to the clergy-house, and they will look after him as 
much as they can/ 

* How is he looking ?' 

' As if he had not slept all night, but otherwise I believe this has 
done him good ; I fancy he never knew what the first impulse of 
the ferocious old Mexican might be.' 

* Did he say anything ?* 

* No, but the Vicar did He has had a terrible time ; but I 
hope the worst is over. We read the Evening Service together ; 
and he looked so full of peace, that I thought of the contrast with 
that Christmas morning when he opened his heart about the fire. 
There was all the difference between blind feeling after truth and 
holding it in the hand.' 

* Was Edgar with you then ?' asked Cherry, eagerly. ' 

* No, he came later.' 

* You Blunderbore !' said Cherry, rallying her playfulness to 
hide the extinction of that moment's hope ; * how like tlie good 
Christian who gave the wounded man the sermon first and the 
raspberry-vinegar after !' 

' Come with me to-morrow, and give him the raspberry-vinegar 
then, Cherry.' 

* Nay,' said Cherry, feeling this impossible, but withholding the 
reason ; ' I am as bad — ^just as much demoralized by a Wilmet— 
and should be no good.' 

* The sight of you would be ever so much good. You needn't 
be shy. You went with Clem.' 

* Once too often,' faltered Cherry. 

* Eh ? Why W. W. said not a word against it !' 

* I would go with all my heart, Felix,' said Cherry, earnestly, * but 
that I am afraid Alda gave him the — the same reason she did to 
Marilda.' 

* What do you mean ? You are all one blush ! You can't mean 
that she pretended jealousy?' 

* I never meant you to know,* said Cherry. * O Felix ! nothing 
ever was so dreadful 1 Marilda thought it so bad of me. I did so 
long for you I' 

* You should have sent for me. I never thought of exposing 
you to such an insult.' 



DON OR MYNHEER ? 



85 



* I tried to write, but my hand was too shaky ; and then Edgar 
came, and was so very dear I He said Alda only laid hold of this 
as a plea for getting out of the affair ; and you see he was right 
Don*t be vexed, Felix ; it is all over now, and I hope it has made 
me more of a woman and less of a baby \ but after this, I could 
not go to him.' 

* No. I declare I can forgive Alda anything rather than this I' 

' She does not know what she is saying when she is in an ill- 
used mood — especially of me. Indeed, I believe I ought to have 
been more guarded. Shall you tell her about the horse ?* 

' Certainly not' 

' And are you letting this go on without speaking to her ?' 

' I have written twice.' 

* She never told me. What did you say ?' 

' A prose — I fear in the leader and heavy father style — ^which 
probably she never read \ and the answers were civil enough, but 
meant that she would please herself.' 

* You really do not mean to say anything ?' 

' If she asks my opinion, I must ; but she does not I am not 
here to give my consent to the marriage, but to see fair play in the 
settlements.' 

* Do you think that right?' 

' Remember, we know nothing against him, except his conduct 
to Feman.' 

' We know he has not much religion.' 

' Cherry, I should put that objection forward decisively if she 
were a younger one, for whom I am bound to judge ; but she is 
only a year younger than I am, and has seen more of the world. 
She must know more about his principles than I can, and be able 
to judge whether she chooses to trust tp them. No argument of 
mine would make any difference to her ; and I have not the right 
to thrust in objections unasked.' 

' Felix !' 

*What?' 

* Is not that rather " Am I my brother's keeper?" ' 

* I hope not You see, the sort of fatherly relation I bear to 
you all has never existed towards her. She was given quite away \ 
inr! where I do not suppose even a father's remonstrance would 



Chat. 
XXVI I. 



86 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chav. 
XXVII. 



avail, I do not feel called upon to alienate her further by uplifting 
my testimony unsought/ 

* No, it would hardly do her good ; but it would clear your own 
conscience.' 

* It might bring dissension and harsh judgment on my con- 
science. Nothing can be most conscientious that is not most for 
another's good ; and I do not think forcing an additional opposi- 
tion or remonstrance, on mere grounds of my own estimate of him, 
would be useful. You observe, too, that our cool manner of 
treating this brilliant match is token enough of our sentiments.' 

* Then you won't go to the wedding?' 

* Not if I can help it ; and I don't think my company is desired 
Remember,' as he still saw her dissatisfied, * it is not the same thing 
to be an overt scamp as to be what you and I do not think a 
religious man.* 

With a sudden impulse Cherry burst out laughing. * If the great 
Sir Adrian could only see what the little country bookseller thinks 
of his alliance?' 

* Don't let pride peep out at the holes in our cloaks,' said Felix, 
kissing her. 

She could not refuse herself the satisfaction of letting Marilda 
hear the real history of the accident; but she could extract nothing 
but ' Indeed.' 

Altogether, Marilda disappointed Cherry. She went so entirely 
along with the stream, only now and then remorselessly ^ving way 
to a tremendous fit of crossness towards every one except her 
father, never seeming scandalized by any doing of Alda's, and 
snubbing Cherry if she showed any sort of disapprobation. 

Felix stole the first hour of his busy day for Ferdinand, and then 
was distressed to leave him outstretched in his dull, close, noisy 
den, ill adapted for the daylight hours of anything but blue-bottle 
flies ; though neither heat nor idleness was quite so trying to him 
as they would have been to an Underwood. He had a cigar and 
newspaper ; but when books were proposed to him, allowed that 
reading bored him. When Felix shifted the cushions, however, 
under them was a deep devotional mystical work ; and colouring 
a little, he owned that nothing interested him but reading and 
slowly digesting fi-agments of this kind. And Felix felt that it 



DON OR MYNHEER ? 



»7 



would be unreasonable to regret the snapping of the tie that bound 
him to Alda. 

After some hoxurs of business in the City, Felix came back, but 
was amazed to hear that Mr. Travis was gone. The landlady 
seemingly rather hurt at the slur on her attentions, said that an 
elderly lady had come and taken him away, leaving an address. 
This led Felix into Finsbury Square, where he was started to see 
waiting at the door a big carriage, the panels and blinkers dis- 
playing the Underwood rood. On his asking for Mr. Travis, a 
neat young maid took him to a downstairs room, where Ferdinand 
was Ipng on a large sofa, accepting luncheon from a big stout 
housekeeper-looking body, and — Marilda Underwood, her bonnet 
off, as if quite at home ! 

* Felix ! — Granny, have you never seen Felix Underwood !' 
Mrs. Kedge turned round and held out her hand. * I've never 

seen Mr. Felix Hunderwood,' she said ; * but there's no gentleman 
I 'olds in 'igher respect. — Sit down Mr. Felix, and take your bit of 
noonchine. — ^Mary, give him some weal. — I could have had some 
soup if I'd known I was to be so honoured ; but I am a plain body, 
and likes a cut from the servants' dinner — and so does Mary, for a 
change. So,' before he could insert his civil feply, * Veil, we've 
brought off your friend ; I 'ope you think him in good 'ands.' 

* The kindest hands,' said Felix ; though, as good Mrs. Kedge 
discoursed on h opodeldoc and winegar as sovereign for a sprain, 
he began to think the change a doubtful good, and was glad 
Ferdinand seemed chiefly sensible of the motherly care of the old 
lady. 

Marilda offered her cousin a seat in the carriage, when after the 
meal she set forth to take her father home, there to hold con- 
ference with Mr. Murray and the lawyer. 

* This is your doing,' he said, gratefully, as they drove off. 
* How very kind !' 

' Grandmamma always liked him,' said Marilda. ' He is so 
respectful, and he plays backgammon.' 

' It is much better for him than that doleful room, which was 
only made endurable by its being near his friends the curates.' 

* They will come to him there. Granny does not mind. She 
used to think they starved Clement ; but of late they have come to 



Chap. 
XXVIl 



fis 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXVIL 



be great friends with her, and come to her for rag, or broth, or 
hospital tickets/ 

* Does she go to their church ?* 

* Oh no, she wouldn't to save her life — she thinks it quite 
shocking ; and there are two young merry ones who have regular 
quarrels with her, teazing and making fun, and she scolding them, 
but so fond of them, giving them quite large sums for their charities. 
She really delights in them/ 

Marilda spoke far more freely to Felix than she ever could to 
Cherry, but still she steered clear of Alda and her affairs. Only 
she did ask him earnestly to avert all additional care and anxiety 
from her father in arranging for the settlements, and above all to 
hinder any question over which he could become excited. Then, 
as he promised to do all in his power, she asked him what he 
thought of her father's health and looks. He could truly say that 
he thought he was much better since last autumn, and she looked 
cheered ; but the few words she whispered made it known to him 
that she was all this time living in a watchful state of continual 
anxiety— being in truth the only person, except perhaps Edgar, 
who really understood what last year's attack had been, or the 
dangers of anotheh If her mother and Alda knew, they did not 
realize ; and he could perceive both the burthen, and the manner 
in which it rendered her almost passive, except in obviating dis- 
cussion or alarm. 

Of the former there was no danger at the conference. Mr. 
Murray was just as anxious as Mr. Underwood and Felix could 
be, that the five thousand pounds that had been promised to Alda 
should be settled upon herself and the younger children, together 
with a fair proportion charged upon the estate. He was a pleasing 
person, a perfect gentleman, of mildly cordial manners, accepting 
his new connections with courtesy and kindness. He was evidently 
charmed with Alda, whom he wanted to take home with him to be 
introduced to Lady Mary, before returning to choose her outfit 
This was to be completed by the end of the month, that the honey- 
moon might interfere as little as possible with the moon fatal to 
partridges. 

Felix was right His presence was not desired. The father's 
part naturally belonged to Thomas Underwood; and though an 



DON OR MYNHEER? 



89 



invitation was not wanting, Alda did not remonstrate when Felix 
spoke of the assize week requiring him to be at Minsterham, and 
of Charles Froggatt having come home in such a broken state of 
health, that his father's presence in Bexley could never be depended 
upon. She had no desire to display the full dozen gcschwister; but 
t') Cherry she qualified things a little: * I suppose as Felix will 
not come, one of you will stay with Tiim ? ' 

* Of course I shall ! You know I'm wedded I* And she merrily 
held I-»ord Gerald's ivory visage close to her own, 

* I knew you would shrink from it. And those two children at 
Brompton— it will be the middle of their holidays, and it will not 
be worth while having them ; besides, it would be encroaching, as 
Uncle Tom gives all those dresses — and one never knows what 
that Angel might do.' 

' Never,' said Cherry, in full acquiescence, and sure of the same 
from Wilmet. 

* But Wilmet and Stella must come. One of the little Murrays 
will pair with Stella ; and I want Adrian to see her. You will not 
feel slighted. Cherry \ I know you had rather not.' 

* Much rather not,' said Cherry, for Alda was really speaking 
considerately. Indeed, Alda was taking such a leap out of the 
same sphere, that she could afford to be gracious to *the little 
deformed one,' as Sir Adrian most inappropriately termed Geraldine. 
She graciously accepted for a wedding-present an intended portrait 
of Stella, and rejoiced heartily at Cherry's prize for the life-study. 

Never had Cherry, however, been happier than in getting home, 
away from constraint, away from fine houses, away from half- 
comprehended people, back to free affection and mutual under- 
standing. 

* One's own cobweb for ever ! The black caterpillar is crawling 
home again to the dear old nettle !' she cried. 

* But you are not sorry to have gone,' said Felix. 

* If only to get back again.' 

* But they were kind.' 

' I don't want people to be kind ; I want them to be one with 
me.' 

* My dear ! you did not seem unhappy. We thought you 
enjoyed yourself.' 



Chak 
XXVIL 



90 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXVII. 



* I did. I was only unhappy once. I liked things very much 
and shall more, now I have time. . It was such a bustle and whirl ; 
and I felt so obliged to make the most of it, that it seemed to 
wear my senses. Don't you see, it was like snatching at flowers ; 
and now I can sit down to make up my nosegay, and see what I 
have gained.' 

Cherry almost expected Wilmet to decline, in her hatred of 
finery and her general dissatisfaction ; but Wilmet's love of Alda 
was too strong for her not to long to be with her at such a crisis of 
her life, and she was eager to accept the invitation, without fearing 
that the effects of her absence would be as direful as in the previous 
year. 

The party at home were not by any means disconsolate. Felix 
was very busy, for Charles Froggatt had come home, a repentant 
prodigal, and slowly sinking under the disease that had carried off 
his more worthy brothers ; and the father could seldom persuade 
himself to leave him for long together, and besides, needed cheering 
and comfort fi*om his young friends. But Lance and young Lamb 
were working well and helpfully; and William Harewood spent 
almost as much time at Bexley as his brother had done. 

He had passed his examination with flying colours, and had 
previously matriculated at Oxford; and thus being emancipated 
from the choir, which had kept him close at home, he seemed to 
think it liberty to be always at Bexley. As a Harewood, Wilmet 
let him do as he would — asleep in the barrack, and be like one of 
their own boys ; and Lance's neighbourhood seemed to be all he 
wanted, though little of Lance's company was to be had, except in 
walking to see him bathe in early morning, and in long walks after 
seven in the evening — and for these the long July days gave 
ample verge. Robina, Angel, and Bernard often benefited by these 
expeditions into the dewy fields, redolent of hay, and came home 
to that delightful twilight that seems as if it would never be darkness. 

Bill professed perfect content in the day hours. He was a 
voracious reader, and would remain for hours in the reading-room 
intent on some pursuit; and what perhaps was a still greater 
attraction, he could talk, and find listeners. 

Cherry only now understood what Lance had always maintainec* 
— that that shock-headed boy was full of thought, poetry, and 



DON OR MYNHEERS 



91 



ability. He had shed his school-boy slough ; and he had moreover 
adopted the Underwoods, and for the first time learnt what an 
appreciative woman could be. 

His poem of this year was so good, that Lance and Robin 
thought Felix shockingly blind because he refused to put it bodily 
into the Pursuivant, though allowing that it was much- better than 
anything that would appear instead ; and short pieces that the lad 
was continually striking off were only too good for the poet's comer, 
where, however, they gave an infinity of pleasure and satisfaction 
to two households at least The poet — March Hare, as he signed 
himself — ^^^as an odd mixture of his father's scholarly tastes with 
his mother's harum-scarum forgetfulness ; and the consequence was 
such abstraction at one moment, such slap-dash action at another, 
that he was a continual good-natured laughing-stock. To talk and 
read to Cherry seemed to be one of his great objects in life. He 
began it with Robina ; but gradually Cherry, partly as critic and 
sub-editor of the Pursuivant, partly on her own merits, became the 
recipient of ten thousand visions, reflections, aspirations, that were 
crowding upon the young spirit, while she tried to follow, un- 
derstand, and answer, with a sense that her powers were being 
stretched, and her eyes opened into new regions. 

And then, if a stranger appeared, he sank into the red-headed 
lout ; or if he had a message or commission, he treated it sense- 
lessly. Lance used to send Bernard up — as he said, to see him 
into the right train ; and in the home party in the evening, his wit 
and drollery were the cause of inexhaustible mirth — Willie, as 
Robin and Angela agreed, was better fun than all the weddings, 
and even all the sights that London could give. Sometimes they 
were weary with laughing at him, sometimes with the lift he gave 
their minds ; for even Angel understood and followed, and was 
more susceptible than her elders gave her credit for ; and certainly 
she had never been so good as she was this summer, though it was 
still a flighty odd sort of goodness. 

And all this time there was not a word between him and Robin 
of that evening walk. Whether he thought of it or not she knew 
not ; but with her the recollection had a strength that the moment 
had not had. It seemed to be growing up with her. It was a 
memory that went deeper — far deeper than was good for her, poor 



Chap. 
XXVI I. 



42 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXVII. 



child, since there was no surface chatter to carry it off; but the 
maidenliness of fifteen shrank with a sort of horror .and dismay 
from the bare consciousness that she had allowed herself to think 
that those words of his could be serious, even while they had 
formed in her a fixed purpose of striving for him ; and every mark 
of kindness or of preference assumed a value unspeakable and 
beyond her years, while her whole self was so entirely the good, 
plodding, sensible, simple child, that no one detected tiie romance 
beneath. Did the object of it, himself? 

Meantime Wilmet had found Alda much gratified by her 
reception at the Rectory, though confessing that she was glad that 
it was not in her immediate neighbourhood. Lady Mary Murray 
belonged to a severe school of religious opinions, and was anta- 
gonistic to gaiety and ornament, both secular and ecclesiastic 
What effect they and Clement might have mutually had upon each 
other was not proved, for he had found a pupil, and was far away ; 
but as Alda herself owned, Wilmet would have been the daughter- 
in-law to suit them. 

Wilmet and Marilda were very congenial in their housewifely 
tastes and absence of romance, and above all, in a warm and 
resolutely blind love for Alda, never discussing the past, and 
occupied upon the trousseau, without an arntrepenskL 

Sir Adrian was civil to Wilmet, but he never would acknowledge 
the resemblance between the twin-sisters ; and as Wilmet wore no 
earrings, and kept her hair in the simple style tiiat John Hare wood 
had once pronounced perfect, he had only once been confused 
between them, and then was so annoyed, that Edgar said he was 
like a virtuoso, who having secured some unique specimen, finds 
the charm of possession injured by the existence of a duplicate. 

Even in the Murray family there might be those who questioned 
whether the beauty were equal. Either the smooth folds and 
plaits of the rich brown hair pleased a homely taste better than 
fanciful varieties, or housewifery and early hours were better pre- 
servatives than London seasons ; or maybe the stately sweetness 
of the original mould was better and more congenially maintained 
in the life of the true * loaf-giver or lady ' of the laborious thrifty 
home than in the luxurious dependence of the alien house, and 
the schemes, disappointments, and successes of the late campaign 



DON OR MYNHEERS 



93 



At any rate, at three-and-twenty the twins were less alike than of 
old ; and if Alda had the advantage in the graces of art and society, 
Wilmet had a purity of bloom and nobleness of countenance that 
she could not equal. If Wilmet were silent, and by no means so 
entertaining as Geraldine, her little companion thoroughly compen- 
sated for any deficiencies. Every one was taken by surprise by 
Stella's beauty, after the three intermediate sisters, who had littie 
pretensions to anything remarkable in that line. The child was of 
the same small delicate frame as Cherry and Lance ; in fact, much 
what Cherry might have been with more health and less genius to 
change those delicately-moulded features and countenance. The 
colouring of the blue eyes and silken hair was rather deeper than 
the prevailing tint, and the complexion was of the most exquisite 
rosy fairness and delicacy, giving a sense of the most delicate 
porcelain — the movements and gestures perfectly graceful, and 
the innocent chatter delightful, from its eagerness and simplicity. 
She was in every one's eyes an extraordinarily lovely and engaging 
child j and she could have reigned supreme over the whole house 
if she had ever perceived her power, or emancipated herself from 
her loyal submission to * Sister.' 

Many a time did Wilmet's restrictions vex her hosts, and call 
forth Edgar's epithets of dragon and Medusa. Luckily the child 
was of the faithful spirit that honestly trusts its lawful authorities, 
fears forbidden sweets, and feels full compensation in the pleasure 
of obedience. One day, when a refusal to take her to the theatre 
had causfcd great indignation. Sir Adrian, who was by no means 
insensible to her charms, enlivened an idle moment by trying to 
excite her to rebel 

* I would not stand it, Stella — not I ! Tell her stars have no 
business to be hidden.' 

* It's no use,* said Stella. * Sister says when once she says No, it 
is for always.' 

* How very dreadful 1 She must be cured as soon as possible I' 
Stella looked greatly perplexed; and Edgar, the only other 

person present, looked on in great amusement. 

* Let us organise a combitiation,' continued Sir Adrian. * What 
should we come to, if women were allowed to keep to a single No Y 

* Which would be the greatest sufferers?' muttered Edgar.. 



Chap. 
XXVll 



94 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



CUAP. 

XXVII. 



* It would be very nasty if Sister didnV said Stella, understanding 
him verbally more nearly than he had expected. 

* Indeed !' said Sir Adrian. 

* Yes. One would never know when to make up one's mind.' 

* One's mind ! You little china fairy, have you got the mind of 
a midge?' 

* Yes, /have !' said Stella, with an emphasis that Edgar at least 
understood as an allusion to the difference between herself and 
Theodore ; and a little in fear of what might come next, he said, 

* Mind enough to assert her woman's privilege, though how she 
may come to like to be bound by it is another thing.' 

* Look here, little one,' continued Sir Adrian, * we'll not let 
Sister alone till she comes round, and then I'll put you in my pocket 
and take you.' 

* No, thank you,' said Stella, retreating. 

* I thought you wanted to see the fairies ?' 

* I did ; but Sister knows best' 

* Come, now ; I'd give something to know where, in her secret 
soul, this little thing would like to send all the sisters that know 
best ?' 

* To the Neilgherry Hills,' said Stella, with surprising promptness; 

* that's where Captain Jack is !' 

* A capital location !' cried the baronet, laughing triumphantly. 

* Well done, little one ! Send her oflf — and then we'll have pine- 
apple ice, and smart frocks, and go to as many plays as we please ! 
You know what it means to have the cat away.' 

* That was what Bernard said when Wilmet was away, and Alda 
at home,' said Stella ; * but it was very miserable. It was the very 
horridest portion in the whole course of our lives !' 

* Long may it so continue, Stella,' said Edgar. * You'll get no 
change out of her, Vanderkist' 

* It's an odd little piece of goods. I can't make out if it is a child 
at all,' said Sir Adrian. * I can't believe it is more than drilling. 
— Now, my little beauty — ^no one will tell — walls can't hear — 
honour bright — ^which are you for in your heart of hearts — Sister 
Wilmet and propriety, or Alda and — liberty ?' 

Edgar listened curiously ; but Stella had that good genius of tact 
and courtesy that sometimes inspires children; and she made 



DON OR MYNHEER ? 



95 



answer, * Wilmet is my own deax sister, and I am very glad it is 
Alda that you have got/ 

* Well said, you little ingenious morsel !' cried Edgar, laughing 
with delight, and catching her up in his arms. * What does nature 
design this little being for, Adrian ? To marry a great diplomate ?' 

* To do execution of some sort, I < should say,' returned Sir 
Adrian ; * unless such alarming discretion cancels the eflfect of 
those eyes. Never saw a pair more meant to make hearts ache,* 
and he sauntered out of the room. 

* Why, what now, you star of courtesy ? has he kindled the spark 
of vanity at last, that you are craning over to the big pier-glass — 
eh?* said Edgar, with his little sister still in his arms. 

' I only want to see what he means that is so horrid in my eyes,' 
said Stella ; * please show me, Edgar. How can they hurt people 
so?* 

* It's a way they have, Stella,' he gravely answered, * when they 
are clear, and blue^ and big-pupilled, and have great long black 
lashes.' And he looked with proud pleasure at the reflection of 
the sweet little puzzled face beside his own brown beard. 

* But your eyes are just like that, Edgar ; and so are everybody's, 
aren't they ? Why do you laugh, Edgar ? I i^dsh I could go home, 
for I don't understand any of you.' 

' So much the better. Sister would say. I declare, I must risk it, 
and see the effect. I say, Stella, don't you know that you're a little 
beauty, that they are all raving about ? There !' 

* Oh yes,' said Stella composedly ; * I know people always do 
like things for being little, and young, and pretty. And then they 
don't see Tedo, and he is so much prettier than me, you know.' 

' You impracticable child ! What ! have you no shade of a 
notion that it is a fine thing to have such a phiz as that one? 
Did you never thank your stars that you weren't as ugly as 
Martha?' 

' Do you worship the stars, Edgar? For I heard Clem say you 
were very little better than a heathen ; and I suppose worshipping 
the stars is better than worshipping idols.' 

* Is that malice, or simphcity— eh ? Never mind my creed. 
You are my sister at this moment, and are to answer me truly. 
Do you know that you are a beauty? and are you glad of it ?' 



Chap. 
XXVII. 



9'^ 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXVII. 



* I shouldn't like to be ugly/ said Stella ; * not so ugly that 1 
couldn't bear to look at myself. But if I was, they wouldn't leave 
oflf being kind to me at home.' 

* Nor abroad either/ said Edgar, kissing her. * YouVe got the 
tongue that is nearly equal to the eyes, my Stella.' 

Stella's simplicity might soon have been put in the way of further 
trials, for there was a serious proposal of adopting her in Alda's 
room, and promises of excellent education and an ample provision : 
and when Felix's decided though grateful refusal arrived, Mr. and 
Mrs. Underwood spoke angrily of his folly, as selfish, and almost 
undutiful to his father, who had freely trusted them with the two 
elders; but Edgar cut this short. *No, no, my dear good 
governor. That won't do ; FeUx knows that if my father could 
have seen the results, he would ten times rather have let us fight it 
out in the Irish cabin at home.' 

* I am sure,' exclaimed Mrs. Underwood, * we have done every- 
thing for you, Edgar ! It is enough to cure one of offering to do 
anything for any one !' 

* Just what I say,' was Edgar's grave response ; but he added, 
with his natural sweetness, * Not but that I believe, vsx the common 
herd, we should have been, if anything, worse than we are now. 
We brought the bad drop with us. You did not infuse it' 

* Speak for yourself, Edgar,' said Marilda, rushing to the defence, 
as usual 

So the family was only represented by two sisters and one 
brother at the wedding, which was solemnized by Mr. Murray at 
the parish church, and was a regular common-place smart affair, 
with carriages, favours, and crowds of spectators in much 
excitement to catch a sight of the beautiful bride. 

Murrays mustered in force, and Mrs. Underwood's felicity was 
complete ; for the titled uncle was so glad to see his Sister Mary 
happy about her son, that he came in full state, and made a very 
gratifying speech all about nothing. While Wilmet thought of her 
own soldier on the Neilgherry hills, and felt how widely her path 
and that of her twin-sister must diverge. And Mr. Underwood 
enjoyed the compliments to the * more than father,* and con- 
gratulated himself on having truly done well by poor li^dward's 
child. 



STATES GRATIS. 



97 



* I only wish he were here to see her !' he cried with an effusion 
of almost tearful delight, as he handed T-.ady Vanderkist to her 
carriage* 



Chap. 
XXVIL 



CHAPTER XXVIII. 

STARS GRATIS. 

* Back to the cell, and mean employ, 
Resume the craftsman and the boy.' 

Browning. 

Three months later there was another family gathering, but it was 
for Thomas Underwood's funeral. 

It had come very suddenly. Spa had been g^ven up in favour 
of Brighton ; and there what had seemed a slight casual ailment 
had been followed by a recurrence of the disease, and a stroke 
came on which terminated Ufe in a few hours. 

Mrs. Underwood was prostrated ; but Marilda managed every- 
thing, with the help of Spooner, the confidential clerk. She wrote 
to Felix that he was joint executor with herself, and that as her 
father had wished to be buried at Gentry, he should give orders. 
Edgar had gone abroad, and no one knew where to write to him. 

The chosen burial-place was quite in accordance with poor Mr. 
Underwood's desire to restore the family. Every year he had 
made an effort to reside there, and been as regularly frustrated by 
his wife's predilection for German baths, and dislike to the Bexley 
neighbourhood. Hers had been the dominion of a noisy tongue, 
and of ready tears and reclamations, but, poor woman, she was 
quite passive between the two stronger spirits of her mother and 
her daughter, who brought her down to Gentry the day before the 
fimeraL Mrs. Kedge led her away at once to her room; but 
Marilda stood in the hall, excited, yet business-like, discussing 
arrangements with Fehx, in that prompt, lucid, all-considering 
manner that sometimes springs out of the pressure of a great 
affliction, settling every detail with eager peremptoriness — as, for 
instance, finding that Felix had intended his brothers only to meet 
the procession in the grave-yard, she vehemently stipulated that 



Chap. 
XXVIII 



VOL. II. 



U 



98 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXVIII 



they should come to the house, and be transported in carnages 
like the rest Her mother would not go, and would be left with 
Mrs. Kedge ; but she herself was resolved on being present, with 
Felix for her supporter. 

* You will like to have Wilmet with you ?' he asked. 

* I thought Wilmet would have been here now,* she said, as if 
disappointed. 

* Alda is coming by the five o'clock train ; and she thought you 
had rather be together.' 

* But you will stay?' she earnestly entreated. 

Alda arrived, weeping so much that she had to be taken upstairs 
at once. The occupation and excitement were perhaps good for 
Marilda, who was in a restless tearless state, only eager to be 
doing something for some one. She sat at the head of the dinner- 
table, Mr. Spooner at the foot ; but the conversation was chiefly 
due to the instinctive habits of good breeding belonging to Sir 
Adrian, whose 'go through with it ' air was not unlike what he had 
worn at his weddmg. 

When the ladies went away, he inquired what was known about 
the will ; but Felix knew nothing, and if Mr. Spooner knew, he 
would not say. Thereupon Sir Adrian became silent, and asked 
the way to the smoking-room, whither Mr. Spooner deemed it 
needful to follow, while Felix repaired to the drawing-room. 

He thought it empty; but Alda's head looked round the tall back 
of an easy-chair. 

* Felix, is it you ? I was nearly asleep.' 

* Are you tired ?' 

* Yes, rather. It is such a shock — ^and my poor aunt's grief! It 
is so frightful to see a large person give way ; it makes me quite ill. 
Where's Adrian ? — smoking ?' 

' Yes.' 

< That's man's way of getting out of trouble. If poor Marilda 
could smoke, she would not be half so restless and wretched. She 
has been up and down here four or five times in ten minutes. It 
wears one out !' 

* She will be calmer when the bustle is over.' 

* She tells me that you are executor with her.* 

* I am afraid so.' 



SrA/^S G/^AT/S, 



99 



'Afraid! why?' 

' Of the complication of business of which I have no experience, 
and that must be thoroughly looked into.' 

* Now, for my part,' said I-ady Vanderkist, * I should have 
expected you to be gratified at such a mark of confidence/ 

* So I am, Alda. It is not want of gratitude ; it is only that I 
wish I were better qualified/ 

' You understand business/ 

* Understanding my own business shows me how little I know of 
other people's/ 

' It would not be other people's, if you take this as it is meatit 
There can be no doubt that he meant to pave the way. Don't 
look so senseless and uncompromising, Felix ; you must have 
heard Edgar say so !' 

The colour glowed into Felix's face as he answered, * You have 
not been so silly as to take Edgar's nonsense in earnest ?' 

* It is absurd in you to pretend simplicity,' said Alda, sitting 
upright, and looking at him earnestly. Here is such an oppor- 
tunity as you may never have again. This arrangement must have 
been made on purpose to remove all scruples.' 

' Nay, Alda,* interrupted Felix, in a tone of regret and shame 
at the subject and the time. * If there were no objection, this 
arrangement would be the greatest in itself,' and as she looked at 
him incredulously, * don't you see that he has set me to do a 
brother's part to her? anything to interfere with that would be 
both unfair and cruel.' 

* She knows nothing of such ridiculous refinements as you work 
yourselves up to. Besides no one wishes you to do anything at 
once; only you ought to have it in your mind, and might be 
making way all the time. — Felix,' as she saw his face and gesture, 
* you don't mean that you are so absurdly fastidious. I call that quite 
wrong — in your position, too — and when she is the dearest best- 
hearted girl in the world !' added Alda, with more genuine feeling. 

* True, Alda ; I esteem her goodness and generosity too highly 
to treat her with the disrespect and insincerity such a course would 
imply.' 

* Nonsense ! as if it would not be the greatest kindness to save 
her from fortune-hunters !' 

H 2 



Chap. 
XXVIII. 



lOO 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXVIIl 



Felix smiled. 'What should I be myself?' he said *I must 
speak plainly, to put this out of your head. Nothing else would 
lead me to this, and in me it would be especially abominable, 
because I am the only man in the family able to be of any use to 
her ; and besides, I am not only poor, and in a lower grade, but I 
have so many dependent upon me. — Don't you see ?' 

* I only see that you are obstinate and unreasonable, throwing 
away all my pains to guard her for you V 

Felix could not but laugh a little ironically as he said, * Thank 
you.* 

j * You think it mere fancy,' said Lady Vanderkist, nettled into 
proving her words by an exposure of herself; * but she would have 
had that young Travis two years ago, if I had not managed to give 
him a hint before he got involved.' 

* Alda r He started up, and stood over her, speaking low, but 
with pain and horror inconceivable. * Alda, if you had not told me 
this, I should not have believed it I do not believe you now.' 

Alda had the grace to colour violently under the force of his 
indignation. *Well, well,' she said, * of course it was not only that 
No one out of a novel would be so disinterested without a little bit 
of infatuation besides ; but it is of no use recollecting these things 
now, when they are gone by.' 

This was so incontrovertible that Felix made no answer, and was 
glad that Marilda returned, trying to work oflf her restlessness by 
ringing all the possibilities of Edgar's seeing the announcement in 
the * Times,' and coming home. 

Felix was still too much stunned to reply freely, and took his 
leave as soon as possible. He walked home, finding no solace for 
liis dismay at the usage of Ferdinand, save in plans which his 
better sense knew to be impracticable for bringing Ferdinand and 
Marilda together ; but the match which might have been easily 
accomplished as a veritable manage de convenance^ could not be 
contemplated by an almost penniless clerk. Moreover, the heart 
had been given away, and Fehx could not beUeve that it would be 
possible to turn to Marilda from one of his own graceful sisters. 
Even though the essential vulgarity of Alda's nature had been so 
painfully evident, the delicate contour of her face, her refined 
intonation and pronunciation, and elegance of appearance and 



STAJ^S GRATIS. 



101 



manner, returned on him in contrast with poor Marilda's heavy 
oncouthness, and the shock she inflicted on his taste by plain 
speaking — worse in manner, if better in matter. 

On his return home, he found that Edgar 1 ad arrived, having 
travelled day and night ever since the tidings had met his eye. 
He was very much tired, and genuinely grieved and overcome, too 
much even to battle with the manifestation of his feelings. 
Always affectionate, he mourned for one who had, as he said, been 
far kinder to him than he deserved, and though often angered with 
him, had pardoned and overlooked his oflfences with the partiality 
of a father. That their final farewell had been one of sharp remon- 
strance on the one hand, and of gay defiant coolness on the other, 
added poignancy to his regret ; and there was so much more 
of actual self-reproach than usually came from his tongue, that a 
gleam of hope glanced through the minds of Felix and Cherry that 
this shock might be the beginning of better things. 

They certainly had never seen him so subdued as when he set 
out for Gentry the next morning with his brothers and Wilmet ; and 
the meeting with Marilda was like that of an orphan brother 
and sister. With all her esteem and confidence for Felix, her 
affection for Edgar was a much warmer and more instinctive 
feeling ; and the sight of him brought her tears freely and heartily, 
while she told him the history of her father's last hours, and his 
gentle warmth of manner soothed and comforted her. 

He was sent for to her mother's dressing-room ; and when he 
left it only to join the funeral party, he looked pale, shaken, and 
overwhelmed by grief he had shared as well as witnessed. The 
position of son 6f the house seemed his right. It was he who 
led Marilda to the carriage, and handed in first her, then Wilmet 
followed. Felix was just about to step in, when another person 
thrust forward, and had his hand on the door, when Edgar said, 
* I believe my brother comes with us,' and * Come Felix,' was 
hastily murmured from under Marilda's veil. He obeyed, and met 
a shrug and scowl of displeasure and amazement; but nothing 
could be thought of except poor Marilda's choking sobs under her 
veil. 

It is one curious effect of good breeding, that while in one 
class publicity seems to stifle the expression of grief, in another it 



Chap. 
XXVI) I. 



I02 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXVIII. 



enhances it ; and when Marilda's excitement had once dissolved 
in tears, her agitation became so excessive, that her cousins 
watched her anxiously, Wilmet attempting all that salts and kind 
pressures of the hand could do, and the brothers supporting her, 
when she clung to Edgar's arm, as if resting her whole weight on 
him, when the movement to the church began. 

It was one of the regular conventional, and therefore most 
oppressive of funerals, with a great array of pall-bearers, friends 
from London, and a train of persons with whom Thomas Under- 
wood had been associated ; and after all was over, most of .them 
came to a great cold luncheon, which was to occupy them till the 
next train. 

There they trooped, a black multitude, into the dreary big 
dining-room ; and Felix, knowing nobody, and unwilling to take 
the lead, was much relieved when Edgar returned from taking 
j Marilda upstairs and went round with greetings and replies to 
every one. When he came to the gentleman who would have 
entered the carriage, he said, * Good morning, Fulbert Here— 
my eldest brother.' 

Felix held out his hand, but met an ungracious bend. * You 
muster strong here,' were the words, chiefly addressed to Edgar. 

* I am sorry not to show you any more of us,' said Edgar, with a 
spice of malice ; * the others have walked home.' 

Then Felix made some courteous inquiry for the elder Fulbert, 
and was answered in the coldest and haughtiest of tones, and the 
Vicar of Vale Leston turned away. In this company, all in 
mourning, he would not have been taken for a clergyman, chiefly 
from a sort of free-and-easy air about his dress, and his unclerical 
cast of countenance, which was wearied, bored and supercilious. 

* Take the other end of the table,' indicated Edgar ; but Felix 
would have abstained, had not Mr. Harford summoned him by a 
look ; and another scowl from the Reverend Fulbert was the con- 
sequence. 

Before long that gentleman was examining the lawyer as to 
when the will was to be read ; and hearing in return that so few 
were concerned that there was to be no public opening. Did 
Miss Underwood know that he — Fulbert — was here ? — Yes, 
certainly. — He should like to see her and her mother. Mr 



STARS GRATIS. 



103 



Harford applied to Edgar, who undertook to ascertain whether 
they would wish it 

*What can it be for?' said Marilda, who was sitting between 
the twin sisters, calm, though spent with weeping, and unusually 
gentle. 

*To warn you against us,' said Edgar. *He is ready every 
moment to insult Felix ; but if you can bear it, you had better face 
him, or he will say we beset you, and let no one have access to 
you.' 

* That would be better than his teazing her,' said Wilmet 

*No, I don't mind whom I see now,' said Marilda. *I must 
stand alone. Send him to me in the Ubrary, Edgar.' 

This left Wilmet for the first time alone with Alda, longing to 
enter fully into her sister's new life, and hearing that Ironbeam 
Park was deUghtful ; beautiful house, splendid drawing-rooms, 
beautiful grounds, sheet of water, swans, deer, good neighbourhood, 
people calling, diimer invitations without number, guests who had 
had to be put oflf. There was a Htde attempt at complaint at being 
overwhelmed by the welcome, but pleasure and exultation were 
visible enough ; only it seemed to Wilmet that there was more of 
the splendour and less of the Adrian, than she would have ex- 
pected. Marilda soon came back. 

* WeU, was it as Edgar said ?* asked Alda. 

* He offers his wife to come and stay with me.* 
' I dare say !' 

* I shouldn't wonder if he meant to be kind !' 

* Now, Marilda, you aren't going to let yourself be talked over !' 
cried Alda. 

' He is my relation,' said Marilda, bluffly, in a tone that showed 
she meant to be mistress of her own actions. . ' I came back to say 
that there are things to be done. There are Felix and Edgar 
walking in the garden ; I want them in the library.' 

She was going to ring to have them summoned ; but Wilmet 
undertook to fetch them, going through an ante-room with a glass 
door; which she was just unfastening, when she heard a voice 
behind her — * Holloa, where are you going now ?' She perceived 
her brother-in-law, lounging on a sofa with a newspaper. 

* I am looking for my brothers.' . 



Chap. 
XXVIII. 



IQ4 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXVIII. 



* I say, haven't I told you that 111 not have you eternally run 
ning after that concern ?' 

She faced about, and looked full at him with her grave eyes, and 
neck held like a stag's. 

* I beg your pardon,' he stammered. * This confounded mourn- 
ing makes everybody aUke.' 

She did not wait to hear more, but was gone as soon as the bolt 
had yielded. 

The Tartar had shown himself without a scratch. Were these 
his domestic manners to his three months' bride ? 

She said nothing to her brothers, but brought them to the 
library, where Marilda was awaiting them, with the lawyer, Harford, 
and the manager, Spooner, to settle about the will. 

Alda's five thousand pounds had been made over to her at her 
marriage, so that she was not mentioned. A large share in the 
mercantile house already belonged to Mrs. Underwood, and to her 
was bequeathed the lease of the Kensington house, with the 
furniture j but Gentry Park was absolutely left to Mary Alda, the 
daughter, with all the property in the funds, or embarked in the 
business, coupled with a request that in case of her marriage she 
should carry with her the name and arms of Underwood. Among 
the legacies were fifteen hundred pounds to Felix Chester Under- 
wood, and one thousand pounds apiece to Thomas Edgar, Theodore 
Benjamin, and Stella Eudora — ^FeUx and Mr. Harford trustees for 
these last, with liberty to use the interest for their benefit, or let it 
accumulate, as might be best. 

No one made any remark ; and the lawyer was beginning to tell 
the two executors what immediate steps they must take, when 
Edgar rose, saying, * I suppose I'm not wanted !' 

Marilda jumped up. ' Edgar, you ain't vexed ! Poor Papa 
thought the executorship might take time, trouble, and expense, 
that ought to be made up for. ' 

* Now, Polly,* said Edgar, with his sweet candid smile, ' you are 
not thinking me grudging dear old Fee anything man could give 
him ! I only wish he had mine. He'd do some good with it ;' 
and he fondly laid his hand on the shoulder of Felix, who, not 
being used, hke him, to view Harford and Spooner as tame cats, 
had rather have had this more in private. 



STAAS GRATts, 



105 



* Youll leave it in our hands, and Irt us make the most of it for 
70U, Edgar,* said warm-heartei Marilda ; * that Pampas railway is 
never less than seven per cent., you know.' 

* All very well. Poll, if the item could be suppressed when the 
will is blazoned abroad. It is not ingratitude, dear old girl. It is 
more than I deserve or expected, and will give me a hoist* 

' I hope — ' began Marilda eagerly. 

' Never mind me. The best part of it is that nest-egg for those 
babies.* 

* It is indeed,* said Felix ; ' I cannot express how thankful I am, 
especially for poor Theodore's sake.* 

* It will not do much in the funds,' said Marilda, gratified ; * but 
leave it in our hands, and little Stella shall have quite a fortune. 
You will judge of our security when you look into our books.* 

Marilda's habit of identifying herself with the firm had begun 
half in play years ago ; and in fact, the house now chiefly consisted 
of herself, her mother, and grandmother, with Spooner, who 
had shares enough to give him a personal interest in the 
transactions. 

* You do not mean to go on with the business ?* asked Felix. 

* Why not ? I have worked at it, and like it much better than 
the piano or bead-work — and I can, can't I, Mr. Spooner?* 

* We all know your competence. Miss Underwood. I would 
not wish for a more sagacious head, if — ' 

* Yes, if,' said Marilda more sadly ; * but you see, Felix, you may 
trust me. Let me keep your own and the twins, for you.* 

* For the twins, I do not know how the law stands. Mr. Harford 
will tell me ; but for myself, it may make a great difference to have 
this capital just now,* said Felix, who had already perceived what 
it might do for him. 

Charles Froggatt had been dead about a month, and with him 
his father had lost all personal hope or interest in the business, and 
the few times he had come into the town, had shrunk from meet- 
ings even with old friends, and crept upstairs to talk to Geraldine. 
He wished to retire, and he would have liked to have put Felix 
Underwood, who had for nearly nine years been as a dutiful son, 
into a son*s place ', but he had relations to whom he must do justice, 
and he was unwilling to bring in a new partner, who might, as a 
moneyed man, lord it over Felix ; while if he left thinsjs in their I 



Chav. 
XXVIII. 



tc6 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXVIII. 



present condition till his death, the succession would pass to a 
family whom he knew to be uncongenial All this had been dis- 
cussed, but without seeing any way out of the difficulty, until in 
this legacy Felix saw the means of making himself master of the 
house and stock, and thus would obtain a footing as a citizen, by 
which he could profit as he gained in age and standing. The 
available income of the family would hardly be increased, since 
the absolute possession of the house involved expenses that had 
hitherto been paid over his head ; but the security and independence 
were worth more than the pounds, shillings and pence that might 
otherwise have been brought in. The certain provision for the 
helpless Theodore also made Felix more free. The lawyer, his 
fellow trustree, greatly to Wilmet's satisfaction, would not allow 
the sum in trust to be invested in an)rthing but governmeDt 
security, and as nothing was ifeeded at present for the child, the 
interest might there accumulate in case of need. 

Edgar showed himself much subdued by the change in the 
household. He never spoke plainly about his doings, and direct 
questions drove him to his retreat in the ludicrous. However, it 
could be inferred that in the recklessness induced by Alice Knevetf s 
desertion, he had gone far enough to alarm himself, and behold 
some abyss of exposure and disgrace whence the legacy would 
retrieve him, and that he was resolved to pull up and begin upon 
a different course. 

He talked eagerly and edifyingly of setting about a picture for 
exhibition, the proceeds of which might take him to Italy, to begin 
a course of study at Rome, where he might make a home for 
Cherry to come and work with him \ and they built up a Chctteau 
en Espagney the more fervently in proportion to Cherry's want of 
faith therein. Hours were spent in devising and sketching subjects 
for the picture, or rather pictures, for Mr. Renville was very anxious 
that Geraldine should make a venture in water-colours, such as 
might at least make her known as a possible illustrator. Edgar's 
eye and advice were very useful to her ; and she decided on one 
ideal subject — the faithful little acolyte, who. while the priest slept 
on the cold morning, 

* Turned and sought the choir, 
Touched the Altar tapers 
With a flake of fire.' 



STARS GRATIS, 



107 



And likewise the sketches of Stella in different attitudes, which she 
had made with a view to Alda's picture, were worth working at 
with her utmost power. 

For Edgar's own part, he had resolved on a scene which Cherry 
thought wild and impracticable, till he had dashed in his sketch of 
Brynhild asleep in the circle of fire, with Sigurd about to break 
through. There was something so bright and fiery, so expressive 
and powerful, in the hastily-designed and partly-coloured ebauche 
that Cherry gazed at it like something of weird and magical beauty, 
only longing for her master to see it, and own Edgar's genius. 

Brynhild's model was Wilmet, who, much against the grain, was 
induced to let down all her mass of hair, and let Edgar pose her 
on the sofa squab with bare arms. In his mischief, however, he 
produced a counter pen-and-ink outline of Marilda in the same 
position, with all the pointed flames labelled with the names of 
various stocks and securities ; while Sigurd's helmet disclosed Felix, 
armed with the 'Pursuivant,' and hesitating to plunge in. He 
might with equal propriety have drawn himself, his sister Alda 
thought, for on failing with F'elix, she had actually whispered the 
same hint to him, but was met with the reply, * Oh no, I am not 
bad enough for that' 

She was spending a week longer at Centry, that Sir Adrian 
might massacre the pheasants, which, however, he considered to 
be so disgracefully preserved, that he spent much time and 
eloquence in explaining to Miss Underwood how she might render 
her game a source of profit. 

One November day, the last of the Vanderkists' stay at Centry, 
when the sisters had been sent for in the afternoon, and he and 
Lance were to follow for the evening, Felix, returning into his 
office, was amazed to see a figure standing at the fire. 

' Ferdinand ! what good wind brings you here ?* 

* I am come to say good-bye.' 

* What ? Mr. Brown sends you out to America ?' 

* No, it is on my own account. His correspondent at Oswego 
has telegraphed to him to find me, and let me know of my uncle's 
death.' 

* Death !' 

* Yes, I know no particulars/ 



Chap. 
XXVIII. 



to8 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap, 
XXVIII, 



* And are you his heir ?' 

* That I do not know. Probably. I cannot bring myself to care.* 

* How much is it ?' 

* Brown knows of fifty thousand in stock that he can lay his 
hand upon ; but there must be more than as much again afloat in 
the States, in goodness knows what speculations, and I shall have 
to deal with it all !' 

' It is well you have had an apprenticeship. The Life Guards- 
man would have known less about it When do you start?' 

* I go back to town by the mail train to-night, to Liverpool to- 
morrow. I could not go without telling you ; and when I tried to 
write, I felt I must see you and this place again. But you are 
going out' 

* We were, but we shall be glad to get oflf.' 
' To Gentry ? Is she there ?' 

* Yes. Going early to-morrow.' 

Before Ferdinand had done more than stare into the fire. Lance 
opened the door. *Mr. Flowerdew wants — Holloa! Fernan 
dropped from the skies T 

< Is Mr Flowerdew there ?' said Felix, about to pass him. 

* No ; he only wants you to write up to Novello*s. — Do you 
hear, Fernan ? we are to have such a concert in the town hall, for 
a real good organ. Edgar will bring down no end of stars fi^r it 
You'll come down for it ?' 

* Fernan will be in the utmost parts of America by that time, 
Lance.' 

* Look here. Lance,' said Fernan — ^that dark sad countenance 
lighting as it sometimes did — * just you wait a fortnight, and I can 
all but promise you — ' 

* An organ by Atlantic cable, eh?' said Felix, laughing. * Look 
at Lance, Fernan ; he'd hardly thank you. It is the concert they 
want ; the organ is the excuse.' 

* Now, Felix, you are as much set on the concert as I am. He 
is to sing, " Return, blest days," rattled on Lance, too eager on 
his own hobby to draw the inference as to Feman's fortunes; 
* and Mr. Miles has promised to come himself with all our own 
fellows ; and so we can have the sacred part something respect- 
able. It is a horrid pity you can't come I' 



STARS GRATIS. 



109 



* He will be better employed, Lance ; he believes he is come 
into his fortune/ 

* And if so, Felix, nothing can hinder me from my greatest 
possible pleasure, the giving this organ to St Oswald's — the church 
of my baptism.' 

* Well, Feman, the bear is not caught yet, remember ; but when 
it is, Tm not the man to hinder you from making up the deficit I 
strongly anticipate after this same concert of ours/ 

* Felix ! A hundred and sixty reserved seats at a guinea, 
and—' 

Felix put up his hands to his ears. ' Meantime, Lance, find 
little Lightfoot, and tell him to get ready to take a note into the 
country.' 

Ferdinand of course rose up, insisting on starting by the five 
o'clock train, but was withheld while Felix wrote a note to Marilda, 
in which he communicated the tidings, leaving it to her and to 
Wilmet to inform Lady Vanderkist 

The note was delivered in the expectant time before dinner, 
when Marilda, without any preliminary but * Bless me 1 what does 
Felix write to me for ?' read — 

My dear Cousin, 

You must have the kindness to excuse Lance and myself from joining 
your party to-night. We are unexpectedly prevented by the arrival of Mr. 
Travis, who has come down to take leave, having been telegraphed for to 
Oswego on his uncle's death. He must go back by to-night's mail train ; and 
perhaps you would kindly send my sisters home a little earlier, as I think they 
would wish to see him. 

Your affectionate cousin 

F. C. Underwood. 

* His uncle dead without a wDl ! If we had but known I' said 
Mrs. Underwood, unguardedly. 

* Insolvent, depend on it,' growled Sir Adrian, fitting on the 
consequence so that Cherry felt an uncontrollable impulse to 
giggle, and was glad to be sunk in the depths of a huge chair. 

She was startled by Alda's answering rather fretfully, * I don't 
see why — he was very rich.' 

* The more reason. It is always the way with those Yankees.' 
Mrs. Underwood took on herself to defend the solidity of the 

Travis interest as an article of her husband's belief; Wilmet and 



Chap. 
XXV1I1. 



no 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXVIII. 



Cherry louged to change the conversation, but neither knew how; 
and it was Sir Adrian who found a fresh subject at last, on which 
the others willingly rode off. 

They begged to have the carriage ordered at nine, and bade 
good-bye to Lady Vanderkist, who had good taste enough not to 
make another remark after the first into which she had been 
betrayed. 

Marilda, however, did. *Tell him I hope it is all right, and 
that I congratulate him with all my heart,' she said; and she 
looked as if she could have said more. 

Perhaps Wilmet and Cherry were not sorry that Stella's being 
seated between them prevented discussion on the difference 
patience and constancy might have made. Wilmet, with her love 
for her sister, and recollection of that conjugal interpellation, 
might regret ; while Geraldine, less prejudiced, felt that Ferdinand 
could hardly be pitied for the test that had spared him a wife with 
whom he could have so little in common ; but both felt the con- 
trast when they were met by Ferdinand, whose countenance, 
though not intellectual, was singularly noble, and full of a grand 
melancholy sweetness according with the regular outline and dark 
olive colouring, while the gentleness of his tone was not the con- 
ventional politeness of society, but somewhat of the old Spaniard 
enhanced by Christian grace. 

For all that had come and gone, they were more comfortable 
with him now than when he had been Alda's exclusive property, 
and what was wanting in love had been made up in jealousy ; but 
he was very low and sad ; he had not come to the point of ceasing 
to regret Alda, and his native inertness shrank from the«Jtrouble 
and turmoil before him, when he had nothing to make riches 
valuable to him, and could not bear to be wrenched from the 
shadow of St Matthew's, and tossed he knew not where in the 
West, among strangers and worse than strangers. But after all, 
the home party were soon caring most of all about their concert. 

The St Oswald's Choral Society did in fact give a concert every 
year, but in a very quiet way, aiming only at covering their own 
expenses, and seeking for no extraneous aid ; but this was to be 
an affair on a very different scale. It had grown up no one knew 
how, under the influence of Mr. Flowerdew, and of two Miss 



STARS GRATIS. 



IZI 



Biikets, daughters of a gentleman who lived out of the town but in 
the parish. They were enthusiastic young ladies, about thirty 
years old, who had been enough at Minsterham to have known 
* little Underwood * in his glory there, and to take him up with all 
their might when they found him with renovated powers in the 
choral society. 

He was * little Underwood' still, and perhaps would always be 
so, for in spite of the start of growth he had so eagerly hailed, 
he would never be tall, but the slenderness of his bones, hands, 
feet, and general frame, made him look neatly and well made; and 
he was what every one called, very gentlemanlike in appearance. 
His fece had not the beauty of some of the others, the colouring 
was pale, and there was nothing to catch the eye, till it lighted up 
into mirth or sweetness; and his manners, from their perfect 
simphcity and absence of self-consciousness, were always engaging. 
He was either a C3rpher, or else he had an inexpressible charm 
about him. When his violin-playing powers were discovered, the 
ladies made a point of getting up a piece on the piano in which he 
was to accompany them, and a prodigious quantity of practice 
it look. Lance had to walk over to them at least two afternoons 
in a week. Felix looked on it as patronage, and could not think 
how he could bear it; but Lance was too simple to perceive 
patronizing — ^a petticoat was always a petticoat to him, and a little 
lingering chatter in their drawing-room was his delight, a few 
friendly words over the counter enslaved him. . 

Those holidays came, as Felix well knew, tnuch too often ; and 
if he tried to keep the balance true by tenders of the like liberty to 
Ernest Lamb, Lance proved to have left his head behind him, and 
made mistakes, or still worse was guilty of neglects. When called 
to account, partly from pre-occupation, partly from easiness of 
temper, he really seemed incapable of taking a reproof, or under- 
standing the enormity of his errors. Had these been the days of 
Redstone, there must have been an explosion ; but young Lamb 
was one of those whom Lance unconsciously fascinated, and being 
used to sparing him in the early days when he was scarcely more 
than a convalescent, the good plodding lad took it for granted that 
the unmusical should set the musical free, toiled quietly after him to 
rectify his mistakes, was absolutely amazed when Mr. Underwood 



Chap. 

xxvin. 



112 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXVIII. 



apologized to him for the unequal weight resting on his honest 
shoulders, and was by far the most shocked and distressed when at 
last the value of some careless piece of damage was imposed as a fine. 
Indeed, Lance viewed this as expiation, troubled his head no more 
about the matter, and was in far too transcendent a state to perceive 
that he was Felix's daily worry, provocation, and disappointment 

There was the hope that it would be only for a time, and that 
it would blow over the sooner that nothing was heard of Edgar or 
his stars. Lance was indeed so radiantly happy, that it was only 
when he was doing something very provoking indeed that it was 
possible to be displeased with him, and not even to Geraldine 
would Felix whisper the heart-sickening misgivings that came over 
him when he found himself experiencing exacdy what Kedge and 
Underwood had gone through from Edgar. 

The concert was to be just within the Christmas vacations, so 
that the performers would include Clement, and the audience 
Robina and Angela, besides William Harewood, who was to bring 
his sisters over. It was delicious to hear Lance's demands upon 
Wilmet, in his ecstasy at being once more with his own beloved 
Minsterham choir. And Wilmet's soft spot was Minsterham, as 
the rogue knew. 

* Train comes in at five eleven. I say, Mettie, our fellows must 
come here before they go to tune up.' 

' My dear Lance, there are five-and-thirty of them at least ! It 
is quite impossible ! Why they couldn't sit down T 

Lance whistled. ' I must have little Graeme, Mettie, the little 
chap has never been here.' 

* Poor little Dick ! Well I don't mind him.' 

* And if he comes, he must bring httle George Lee — ^he's only 
seven, and not fit to knock about with men and alL' 

* Very well' 

* No more is his fellow — that mite of a Bennett that is come 
instead of Harewood. His brother was an uncommon good friend 
to me when I was a little squeaking treble.' 

Wilmet swallowed the mite of a Bennett 

* And Poulter ! You remember Poulter, surely, Wilmet' 

* Who used to come twice a day to ask after you. Yes, we mua 
have him.' 



STAIiS GRATIS. 



"3 



' Then there's Oliver — our big bass ! Oh ! you must remember 
old Oliver with that grizzly beard, coming in and carrying me out 
like a baby the first day I went into the avenue.* 

' That good-natured old man-^— only I should think he would be 
happier among his friends/ 

* And Mr. Miles—' 

* Really, Lance, I don't think Mr. Miles would wish to come.' 

* Oh, you're afraid Jack will be jealous ! — ^You know. Cherry, 
Miles was almost caught, he had the slyest Uttle flirtation with 
Mettie when they thought I was asleep or deUrious or some- 
thing—' 

' Delirious indeed to think so,' interrupted Wilmet indignantly ; 
but Lance went on unheeding, 

* And if the engineer hadn't been the sharpest, who knows it 
she wouldn't have got permanent lodgings in the organ gallery ? 
and now you see she thinks poor Miles's heart is in such a state 
that she can't venture to let him come 1' 

* Ah !' said Cherry, gravely taking up the cue, and much 
amused at Wilmet's indignant blushes and innocent amazement. 
* I've always imderstood that things go very deep with those sort 
of misog)niists, when once they begin.' 

* Now, Cherry, I didn't expect such nonsense in you !' ex- 
claimed Wilmet * Mr. Miles is extremely welcome — just as any 
of Lance's friends . are,' 

* There, Lance,' laughed Cherry, * there goes the wedge ! Dick 
Graeme was the small end, then came the two little trebles, then 
the two basses, and now Mr. Miles himself and any of your 
firiends. And I imagine all the five-and-thirty are your particular 
friends.' 

* Why, all that are coming — except Rooke and Higgins, and 
they always were disgusting Uttle cads, only one couldn't leave 
them out by themselves, as they would be eating dirt some way 
and getting not fit to sing ; Rooke's got my part now — I always 
used to be the lady when there was any spooning going on out of 
an opera ! and if we don't take them in hand they'll go and stuflf 
themselves with pastry, and wash it down with cherry brandy, and 
won't be good for anything.' 

* But there must be some senior to keep them in order.' 

VOL. II. X 



Chap. 
XXVIII. 



114 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 

XXVIIl 



* Oh ! there's Black, but he will go to his cousin's in Long Street, 
and Charlie Harris, but he was next to me. If any one comes, 
Charlie must* 

* My dear, how many are there to come?* 

* Well ! four of the little chaps will be away for the holidays, and 
it is only six of the lay-vicars that ever do come out, and two of 
them have friends here, so it is only two more of them besides 
Mr. Miles, and but five more boys. Really, Wilmet, I know 
Mr. Miles and the Precentor would be for ever obliged, there's 
nothing they hate so much for us as knocking about hotels, and 
that's why we hardly ever went to any but private concerts.' 

* Well, every one was so very kind last year, we do owe some 
return. I will see what Felix thinks.' 

Felix, so far as he had time to think at all, was sure to be on the 
hospitable side, so that ended by a provision of cold meat and tea 
and coffee on the back-room table, and permission to Lance to 
bring in and feed whomsoever he pleased. After the concert, a 
regular supper was provided in the school for all the performers, 
and Wilmet was released from all concern except with stray 
womankind who might want shelter till the mail train. 

The excitement went on increasing. To use Lance's expression, 
the tickets went off like wild-fire ; Marilda took a large allow- 
ance for her servants and dependants. 

The type of the programmes was all set up, and Lance had 
proudly carried the proof round the house, when a note arrived 
from Edgar. 

* Prebels consent to come and give three National Magyar airs, expenses 
being paid. Engage rooms for them at the F. A. I trust this is in time to 
draw. I shall come down with them.' 

T. E. U. 

Here were the stars, after all ! Lance crushed up his proof and 
played at ball with it in his ecstasy ; and Felix — for all the trouble 
it gave him — was carried along and not much less delighted, as he 
sent Clement up to Mr. Flowerdew with the intelligence. 

The brother and sister M. Stanislas and Mile. Zoraya Prebel 
were not exactly in the first ranks of public singers, but were rated 
highly, and their famd, when making the round of the provinces 
with a company who performed varieties of characteristic national 



STARS GRATIS, 



"S 



music, had been quite enough to fire the souls of Bexley with 
ardour ; nor did Felix murmur, although he had to stay away from 
the final choral society's rehearsal to provide for the programmes 
and hand-bills, without which the attraction of Mile. Zoraya would 
remain unknown to the public. Time to put it into the Pursui- 
vant ' would have made all the difference ! 

But on that last supreme day, the excitement was such, that 
anybody was willing to do anything. Felix could do litde but 
explain to people where their seats would be on the map of the 
town hall spread on the counter, and answer their questions about 
the Zoraya ; Wilmet was over head and ears on her preparations 
for her entertainment, and would have been unable to get any help 
in laying out her table but Cherr/s if Marilda had not come in to 
see what was going on, thrown herself into the business with zeal 
and promptitude, sent back to Gentry for a supply of flowers, 
knives and forks, and done the work of half a dozen parlour-maids. 
Stella was obedientiy keeping Theodore out of mischief; and the 
other two girls were, with Bill Harewood, assisting a select party 
in decorating the town hall with evergreens ; and Clement, who 
had to his dismay found a whole part made over to him by a 
young Bruce, who had an inopportune cold, was practising hard at 
the old piano (which, by-the-by. Lance had learned to tune) ; 
Mr. Flowerdew and the manager were catching the doubtful and 
putting them through their performances ; and litde Lightfoot was 
only preserved by his natural stolidity from utter distraction 
among the hundred different ways he was ordered at once. As 
for Lance, he tried to help every one, was too excited to keep at 
anything, and was usually scolded off from whatever he attempted 
till at last he shut himself up in the barrack with his violin, and 
practised till he was so desperate at the sense of his failures, that 
when Bill Harewood came in search of him, he was, as he mildly 
expressed it, hesitating whether to hang himself Uke Dirk Hatteraick 
on the beam. 

* Well, come down, here's Miles as savage as a bear with a sore 
head — vows that he was very near turning back again when he 
saw your rose-coloured placard of the Zoraya at the station.' 

* If he's sulky, that is a go !' exclaimed Lance, with a look of 
consternation, utterly overpowering his stage fright * Do you 

I 2 



Chap 
XXVITI. 



ii6 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 

Kxvm. 



remember his putting us all out at the Deanery, because Miss 
Evans affronted him Y 

* Well do I remember it I He boxed my ears for it so that they 
sung for a week !* 

And the two ex-choristers went down, feeling much as when an 
anthem had gone wrong. The room was pretty well filled with 
their old comrades, but Lance only went from one to the other 
quietly shaking hands, and quaking for the future as he heard the 
organist thundering away to Wilmet and Cherry. 

He hated singing women some degrees more than the rest of 
their sex, and above all Italian singing women, who never appre* 
ciated Handel. Cherry ventured to suggest that the lady was not 
Italian, but, if anything, Hungarian. 

* Madam,' he answered in Johnsonian wrath, *she is cosmo- 
politan, that is to say a half breed or quarter breed of everything, 
with neither home, nation, nor faith !* 

* Do you know anything against her?* gravely asked Wilmet 
with a view to the possible contingency of being desired to call 
upon her. 

* I know enough in knowing her to be a second-rate prima 
donna. Faugh ! Now and then comes a first-rate one who can't 
help it, and is as meek and simple as you might be ; but when this 
sort of woman comes down as a favour, I know what that means ! 
Who is to pay the debt you'll have?* 

* They come for their expenses.' 

He held up his hands. * I'd ten times rather she came at a 
hundred guineas a night! Then you'd know what to be at! 
Whose doing is it ?* 

* My brother Edgar's.' 

* Then I hope he is prepared to pay for it That is, if she 
comes at all. You'll have a telegram to say she has a cold, and 
who is to announce it to an indignant audience ?' 

* I think you had better, Mr. Miles,' said Cherry daringly, * for 
you will congratulate them upon it' 

* Isn't his face a caution Y whispered Bill to Lance. * He never 
got such sauce before.' 

' He likes it,' returned Lance, triumphantly rubbing his hands*. 
* Cherry could come over Pluto himself I' 



STAJiS GRATIS, 



"7 



And in effect, the lively gracious tongue of the one sister, and 
the cahn beauty of the other, were producing a wonderful 
placability and good-humour ; the lads who were feeding by relays 
in the back room ventured to talk and laugh above their breath, 
and the only fear was of a relapse when Marilda's carriage, with 
Mr. and Mrs. Spooner in it, called for Cherry, and the fascination 
had to be removed. 

Lance was as much delighted to walk down with the choir, 
though he sorely missed his cap and gown, as was Will to go, as 
he said, like a gentleman, the only one except little Bernard 
available to escort the ladies. Robin was quite content, as he took 
to himself all the honom: and glory of representing his brother, 
and giving an arm to the belle of the room, as he persisted in 
declaring Wilmet, though to well accustomed Bexley eyes, she was 
much more likely to appear as the school teacher. 

They were a merry little snug party, those four sisters behind, 
with tln» three Harewoods; only Wilmet was rather scandalised 
by the titter of Grace and Lucy in their delight at being relieved 
from Mr. Miles's presence; and their excitement about Edgar, 
whom they viewed as the most beautiful vision that had ever dawned 
on them. Vain were Wilmef s endeavours to keep them in order by 
stem repressions of her own comparatively unoffending sisters, who 
had littie attention to spare for nonsense, since Robina's whole soul 
was set on Lance's enjoying and distinguishing himself, and Angela 
was in an absolutely painful state of tension with expectation and 
anxiety for the star's appearance and Mr. Miles's temper. 

Presently, after long waiting, there was a look of sensation and 
eagerness, and Felix, who had been detained to the last moment, 
came edging himself through the lines of chairs, his whiskers in 
their best curl, and his hair shining, to exchange a word with his 
outermost sister, who chanced to be Robin. 

* All right, if the train is not late. Edgar has telegraphed. Is 
Cherry comfortable ? I couldn't get away before. There's not a 
ticket left' 

Happy those that caught the whisper as Felix made his way up 
the lane, and was admitted through the orchestra ; but there was 
still delay enough to allow some impatient stamping of feet to 
begin before the revolution in the programme could be settled 



Chap. 

xxvin. 



iiS 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXVIII. 



which was to give these erratic meteors time to appear. Then at 
last came the overture, and the concert took its course. There 
was no doubt that Mr. Miles was accompanying in his best style ; 
Angela was soon far too blissfiil for personal anxieties ; but it was 
a great comfort to the sisters to be secure that all was right, when 
not only the three brothers — of whom they had seen and heard 
their share in the sacred part — but Edgar came forward. Any 
sisters might be proud of four such brothers — so bright, so straight, 
so strong and fair; Edgar, with his fine robust figure and silky 
beard, giving them altogether a distinguished look and character, 
though Clement's head was a little the highest, and Lance's voice 
was the sweetest and most remarkable in power and expression ; 
but all were in wonderful accord and harmony. Any other 
audience would have encored the performance as something rare 
and exquisite ; but the Underwood brothers and their glees were 
rather stock pieces at Bexley, and people wanted something new. 

Lance's performance with the Miss Birkets was very correct, but 
not of the style calculated to produce any very lively sentiments 
among the uninitiated audience, who were on the tip-toe of 
expectation of the lady whose arrival had been notified in whispers, 
and hardly fully appreciating the best that either their onmi powers 
or the Minsterham choir could produce. The first part went by 
without her ; and in the interval came hope in the shape of Lance, 
who made an incursion to ask his sisters how they liked it, and to 
impart that the Zoraya was safe come, but was supposed to be 
dressing. *Mr. Miles said she would be dressing till midnight, 
and would be less worth hearing then than a decently trained 
choir-boy. But he's not sulky, after all ; yet,' added Lance, with a 
look of brightness in his face, * fancy his telling Fee that I played 
that remarkably well just now — truth and taste, he said^—the old 
villain — only that the ladies would spoil my time if I didn't take 
care. And there's a sallow-faced fellow come down with Made- 
moiselle, who said it wasn't bad either !* 

No wonder Lance was exalted ; and he required equal admira- 
tion for all his favourites, until he had to hurry back again. 

A little of what seemed to the excited commonplace — then 
came the event of the evening. The ghstening silken lady, with 
a flashing emerald spray in her dark hair, lustrous eyes of a coloui 



STAINS GRATIS. 



119 



respecting which no two persons in the room agreed, and a face 
of brilliant beauty, was led bowing forward, and her notes, bird- 
like, fresh, and clear, rang through the room, her brother accom- 
panying her. It was a strong clear voice, and the language and 
air being alike new, entranced every one ; the applause was ve- 
hement, the encoring almost passionate ; but the lady would not 
be encored, she gave them two songs alone, one with her brother, 
accompanied this time by Lancets * sallow-faced fellow;' and 
though she smiled and curtsied graciously, was not to be induced 
to repeat herself. 

It seemed to Robina as if the lady herself and the whole public 
had taken a great deal of trouble for a very brief matter ; but she 
found it was rank treason to say so, when at the conclusion of the 
whole, those faithful brothers hurried down each to pick up a 
sister and bestow her safely at home before repairing to the 
Fortinbras Arms for the great supper to the Minsterham choir. 
The Bexley public had been favoured beyond all desert or reason ; 
the newness of the airs had been a perfect revelation to Lance's 
ears, and he was very angry with Clement for being disappointed, 
and repeating Mr. Miles's judgment that there was lack both of 
science in the singing and of sweetness in the voice. 

Altogether the evening had been a great success \ every one was 
delighted with every one else, and the supper was not the least 
charmmg part, preceded as it was by Lance's bringing the little 
seven years old choir boy, half asleep, ready to cry and quite 
worn out, and putting him under Wilmet's care. He had half his 
night's rest out on the sofa before he was picked up in the kindly 
arms of the big bass and carried ofif to the mail train. Lance 
seemed much disposed to go with them by mistake ; indeed, he 
was only withheld from accompanying them to the station by 
Felix reminding him rather sharply that someone must be kept 
sitting up for him. 

It was over, and the morning began with Felix standing straight 
up in the office, master now rather than brother, and gravely saying, 
*Now, Lance, that this excitement is at an end, I shall expect 
attention and punctuality, and shall excuse no more neglects. 
Take this invoice, and overlook the unpacking of those goods.' 

'Yes, sir.' Lance wriggled his shoulder? feeling intensely 



Chap. 
XXVIII. 



I20 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXVIII. 



weary of such tasks; and as he stood, paper in hand, still he 
partly whistled, partly hummed the Hungarian air, till the foreman 
came out of the printing-house, saying, * Mr. Lancelot, I should 
be much obliged if you would desist It distracts the young men,' 

Of course Lance bothered the young men, but desisted when- 
ever he recollected it, and then inly bemoaned the having passed 
a light-house of anticipation, and having before him only a dreary 
irksome twilight waste. 

Edgar had not been seen that morning, except to leave word 
that he meant to breakfast with his friends at the Fortinbras 
Arms; but at the dinner hour he looked into the office, and 
saying, * You are at liberty, Lance, I want you,' carried him off, 
Felix knew not why nor where, and had no time to ask, even 
when Lance came back, and this was not till past two, with the 
shop overflowing, and customers waiting to be attended to. It 
was one of those times when gossipry was rife, and the master 
had to stand talking, talking, while his assistants had more than 
enough on their hands with the real purchasers, a division of 
labour that usually came naturally, but to which Lance was evi- 
dently not conforming himself as usual ; and at last Felix heard 
him absolutely denying that certain blotting-blocks ever had been, 
would, or could be made, and had to turn hastily to the rescue 
and undertake that they should be forthcoming by the next week. 
Also two orders proved to have been left not entered, and there- 
fore not attended to, and Felix was thoroughly roused into vexa- 
tion and anger. As soon as the last hurried customers had come 
and gone, while Stubbs and Lightfoot were closing the shutters, 
he again summoned Lance with, * This will not do. Lance. Your 
ignorance and laziness are not to be the limit of people's wants, 
and I will not have my customers neglected. I have had patience 
with you all through this business, and that good fellow Lamb has 
shewn forbearance that amazes me, but it must go on no longer. 
Things cannot be done by halves. Either you must turn over a 
new leaf, and give your mind to the business, or you must give ii 
up, and look out for some other employment* 

* You wish me to give it up ?* mumbled Lance, in a voice that 
sounded sullen. 

* You are going the way to make me do so.' 



STAJ^S GRA TIS. 



121 



* You don't want me ? Very well' 

* Stay, Lance/ said Felix, whose reproofs had never before been 
received by Lance in this manner, *I wish you to undeirstand. 
You oflfered your services under a generous impulse last year, 
when I was overdone and perplexed j but I doubted then if it 
were not a mistake. You had come to be very valuable, more so 
than any mere hireling could be, and I am very thankful to you ; 
but if you are to be like what you have been for a month* past, 
you are doing some harm to the business and a great deal to 
yourself; and you had better choose some line that you can be 
hearty in/ 

' Could you afford it, Felix T 

' I must afford it 1 Such work as yours has been of late is the 
most expensive of all. Eh T rather startled ; * have you anything 
in your head ?' 

* I hardly know.* 

A message came in at the moment, and by the time Felix had 
answered it. Lance had vanished, rather to his vexation and un- 
easiness. He went up to supper, the first family meeting where 
there had been time to talk over the humours of the day before. 
Edgar was full of fun ; and the report Cherry had been writing 
for the * Pursuivant ' was read aloud in the family conclave, and 
freely canvassed, but Lance, though he put in a word or two here 
and there, was much quieter than usual ; and when all the others 
moved back into the drawing-room, he touched Robina's arm, and 
kept her with him in the dark room. 

* What should you say, Bob, if I got out of it all ?* was his first 
word. 

'Out of it all r 

* Ay. Felix thinks me no loss, and I've got a chance.' 

* Oh !' a long interrogative not well pleased sound it was, not 
answered at once ; and Robina added, * Does Mr. Miles want an 
assistant?' 

* 'Tisn't that sort. You saw the gentleman that came down 
with Edgar and the Hiigarians ?' 

* Yes, his name is Allen, he is manager of the National Min- 
strelsy,' Edgar said. 

' Just so. He has got a lease of a concert-room in town, and 



Chap. 

xxvin. 



122 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXVIII. 



he would give me five pounds a week to sing two nights a week 
through the season !' 

* Lance T Robina could only stand breathless. 

* rij tell you all about it You know Edgar came and called 
me just at dinner-time/ 

* I know, and Felix got no dinner at all except a sandwich that 
Wilmet sent down.* 

' Well, that was his own fault However, there they were at 
the Fortinbras Arms, in the best blue room, just come down to 
breakfast' 

* Who ? The Hungarians ?* 

* Yes. Mr. Allen and M. Prebel were waiting for the lady, to 
ring and have the hot things up. What a stunner she is, to be 
sure 1 the finest woman I ever saw in my life, and such pretty 
ways when she can't find an English word, I should think a queen 
must be just like her.* 

* Yes, if she is waited for in that way. Did you get anything to 
eat, then, Lance?* 

* Didn't we, though ? Why, they had asked us to breakfast ; 
and such a breakfast I never set eyes on — devilled kidneys, and 
pie with truffles in it, and pine-apple jam — and wine ! They 
asked for wines that Reid the waiter had never heard of — ^nor, it 
is my belief, Mr. Jones either.' 

* But is this all to come out of their expenses that are paid for 
them?' 

* You're getting like W. W., I declare, Bobbie. I never thought 
of that \ but I'll go up to Reid, and find out the worth of my own 
share, and wipe that out Well, they were uncommonly kind and 
civil. Edgar's quite at home with them, you know ; talks French 
like a house on fire, or German — I don't know which it was, but 
she made it sound as pretty as could be, and I should soon pick 
it up. I had no notion what they were at, but Edgar said she 
wanted to hear me sing that song of Sullivan's again, and I could 
not help doing it \ and then she smiled and bowed and thanked, 
and Mr. Allen made remarks, about my wanting lightness and 
style, said it came of singing too much cathedral music* 

* O Lance, wasn't that like the Little Master saying Montjoie 
St Denis?' 



STAINS GRATIS. 



123 



'Nonsense! He's no more like the Little Master than you 
are ; Edgar says he's as respectable as Old Time, and has got a 
little mouse of a wife as good as gold. But he does want a high 
tenor to sing his Enghsh ballads, and he'll give me this, with 
chances to sing at private concerts, and opportunities of getting 
lessons on the violin. Think of that, you solemn bird, you.* 

* Where woul4 you live ?' 

* With Edgar. Then I could make up the difference to Fee ; 
and what I could save, with Edgar's picture, will take us to Italy. 
And there I could get finished up first-rate.' 

' You've not settled it so ?' 

*Why, no. The first thing that struck me was that it was 
awfully cool by Felix, to say all this without notice to him, and I 
told them as much ; but then they said they didn't want to in- 
convenience Felix, and wouldn't want me till March.' 

* Just as if you were his servant' . 

* In that light, so I am.' 

' You don't really think of doing it. Lance ?' 

* I don't mean one thing or the other yet, Robin ! Here's 
Felix one side telling us that he's very much obliged to me, but 
I am worse than no use at all ; and Edgar and this Allen on the 
other, saying that here's the line that I am cut out for.' 

* But Felix can only mean when you are gone mad after the 
concert.* 

* And who is to help getting mad, when their life is all dulness 
and botheration ? Edgar told me it would be so — and now FeHx 
himself declares it was a mistake my ever working here.' 

' Felix must have been terribly displeased, to say so.* 

' I believe he was indeed ! but I couldn't help it. How can 

one mind foolscap and satin wove, and all the rest of it, when 

there are such glorious things beyond ?* 

* Lance, I never heard you say " couldn't help it" before !* 

* Now, Robin, say in three words. Do you want me to be a 
mere counter-jumper all my life ?' 

' Lance— don't' 

* There, you see what you really feel about it Now — ^without 
coming to such a point as Sims Reeves, or Joachim, or — * (and 
Lance's figu:e was full of infinite possibility), * I could with the most 



Chap. 
XXVIII. 



£24 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXVIII. 



ordinary luck get up high enough to have a handsome main- 
tenance ; and at any rate, I should live with what is life to me— 
have time to study the science — ^be a composer, maybe — ^and get 
into a society that is not all inferior. I hate the isolation we live 
in here — not a real lady out of one's own family to be friendly 
with one.' 

* But I don't think ladies are so with musical people.' 

* Maybe not, but they are a strong, cultivated, refined society of 
their own, able to take care of themselves. What now, Robin, 
can't you speak ? What is it now?' 

* I was only thinking of what you said last time Edgar asked 
you.' 

' I hadn't seen London then, I knew nothing about it. The 
very Sundays there are dififerent things firom what they are in this 
deadly lively place.' 

* That's as you make them. Besides, that makes no difference 
as to that other thing you said.' 

* What ?' (A little crossly.) 

' About the cathedral and die stage,' whispered Robina, hanging 
her head. 

* One doesn't want all that one ever said when one was a high- 
flown ass to be thrown in one's teeth,' said Lance, angrily, 

* Oh !' but otherwise Robina held her tongue. 

Presently Lance began again persuasively. * You see this is 
only training, after aU, Bobbie; I may take to sacred music, 
oratorios or an)rthing else, when once I have got thoroughly taught; 
and I can only do that by living on my own voice. I must lay by 
enough to take me to Italy, and when I have learnt there, then I 
can turn to anything.' 

* Do you think you ever would lay by?' 

That was rather a cutting question, for Lance, though never in 
debt, never could keep a sixpence in his pocket. 

* I could if I had a real object.' 

* Only I don't think it would wholly depend on yourself,' said 
sensible Robina. * I suppose they don't pay by the week ; and 
then if the concern should not answer ?' 

* That's sheer impossibihty. There isn't a safer man in London 
than AUen. It is a much more profitable investment than old Fur. 



STARS GRATIS, 



125 



' Then if you lived with Edgar, you don't know how much you 
might have to go shares for." 

Thereupon Lance broke out into absolute anger against Robina 
for her unkindness to Edgar, talking much of the want of charity 
of people who lived at home, and thought everything beyond their 
ken must be wicked. She ventured to ask what Felix thought of 
it, and was told in return that Felix was not only not his father, but 
though the best fellow in the world, had no more knowledge of it 
than a child in petticoats. It was for the good of Felix, and 
everyone else, that they should not all hang about at home in the 
stodge and mire. 

How long this might have gone on there is no sa3ning, but Felix's 
voice was heard calling to them in preparation for evening prayers. 
Wlien Robina heard Lance's voice rise in all its sweetness in the 
Evening Hymn, her heart was so full of yearning pain and dis- 
appointment, that she could hardly hold back her tears till she 
could kneel and hide her ^e in her hands. 

She had this comfort She did not understand. from Lance that 
he had accepted, and he certainly did not join Edgar that night 
in the kitchen, but, saying he was tired out, he went at once to 
bed. 

On Saturday she had not one private moment with him, but on 
the other hand, neither she hoped had Edgar ; for the work both 
of the press and of the shop happened to be unusually heavy, and 
neithei he nor Felix had a moment to spare ; and Edgar spent 
the evening with some friends in the town. 

Sunday afternoon, the family hour for walks and talks, poured 
with rain, and thereby was favourable to letters to Fulbert 
Indeed, Angela's commencement of some sacred music was 
stopped, by the general voice entreating her to wait till the letters 
were finished. Lance, who never wrote to anybody but Fulbert, 
had resumed the practice ever since he had received an affec- 
tionate letter called forth by his illness, and was now busy with 
his, little blotty portfolio j while Robina, having no Sunday cor- 
respondent, was half reading, half watching Stella explaining 
pictures to Theodore. 

Presently Lance stretched across, and silently put a sheet of 
note-paper into her lap, hushing her by a sign. It had been 



Chap. 
XXVIII. 



126 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXVIII. 



begun in his best hand, and it must be confessed that that hand 
was at present a scratchy one, and there were various erasures. 

Dear Sir, 

I have done my best to consider your kind and flattering proposal, 

and have come to the conclusion that for the present it will be better for me to 

continue where I am. There will thus be no need to apply to my eldest 

brother. 

With my respectful thanks, 

Yours faithfully, 

Lancelot O. Underwood. 

Robina made a little pantomine of clapping her hands, for which 
Lance did not appear to thank her, but still in dumb show required 
her judgment on the choice of several words. She mutely marked 
her preference, and he returned to his place and copied it. Still 
he had not addressed the letter. He put it into his pocket, with 
a significant smile at his sister. Evening came, late service, 
supper ; still it was in his pocket till the moment of bed-time, and 
then it was that Robina saw him linger with Edgar, and went to 
j her room with a heart full of trembling prayer. 

* Edgar,' as his brother arrived in the kitchen, and prepared his 
pipe, * how shall I address this?' 

* Eh ! you needn't be in too great a haste. We had better 
break it to poor old Blunderbore first' 

* There's no breaking in the case. I'm not going.' 

* Ah ! I knew how it would be when you began running about 
to all the womankind in the house.' 

* I've not spoken to a soul but Bobbie,' said Lance rather hotly. 
as Edgar laughed. 

* Then one was enough to do your business ?' 

* I only spoke to her to clear my own mind.' 

* Ay, to get someone to contemplate Hercules between Vice 
and Virtue ; but it won't do, my boy. Little Allen is as virtuous 
as Felix himself, and the choice is simply between the thing you 
can do and the thing you can't' 

* I can do my duty here,' said Lance bluntly. 

* You've tried, my boy ; you made a gallant effort, and I let 
you alone while you had a head to be spared, but *ds no good 
trying to force the course of the stream, and you had better break 



STARS GRATIS, 



127 



loose, before you get too old for the real thing that you are 
made for/ 

*No, Edgar, Tve thought it over, and found out how things 
stand. Here will Felix begin now to have more on his hands, and 
can manage to shell out less than ever while he had Froggy to fall 
back on. Now, not only is my nominal salary much less than he 
could offer a stranger, but half of it goes back into the house- 
keeping, while I'm done for at home, and I don't see how he could 
meet the difference just now.' 

* Whew ! that's the blind way you all go on, putting the present 
before the future. If Felix had a grain of spirit, he would revolt at 
preying on your flesh and blood. Flesh and blood — why, its genius 
and spirit crushed up in this hole !' ' 

* It is no more than all of us have done by him, ever since he 
was of my size.' 

* But it is so short-sighted, Lance. You could make it up to 
him so soon. Five pounds for certain the week — and possibilities, 
remember. You'll lodge with me — that's nothing; and for the 
rest, you'll soon live as we do — like the birds of the air.' 

* I couldn't make it up to him, and save for Italy ; besides I 
should be earning nothing there.' 

* But I should ! Cop)dng is a certain trade. Come now, Lance, 
you've taken some panic. Tell me what is at the bottom of it ! 
Have they been warning you against us wicked Bohemians?' 

*They? Nonsense!' 
' She, then ?' 

* It is nothing at all that Robina said.' 

* Come, make a clean breast. What lies at the bottom of this 
absurd rejection of the best offer you'll ever have in your life ?' 

Edgar took the pipe out of his mouth, that the smoke might not 
obscure his view of the young face whose brow was resting on an 
arm leant on the mantel-piece, and the eyes far away. * What's the 
bugbear ? and III clear it up.' 

* No bugbear.' 

* You don't trust me. Eh ? Is that it ? Have they told you I 
mean to prey on your innocence ?' 

* No, indeed, Edgar !' 

* Are you afraid of the great and wicked world ? I thought 



Chat. 
XXVIIL 



128 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXVIII. 



you'd more spirit than that ; and I've always told you, you might 
run after as many churches as you chose. I'd never hinder you. 
Come, have it out, Lance, you think me a corrupter of your artless 
youth?' 
'No!' 

* Come, out with it. What has turned you ?' 

The answer came at last in his low clear voice, speaking more 
into the fire than to Edgar, the eyes still fixed and far away — 

* "And here we offer and present unto Thee ourselves, our souls and 
bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and lively sacrifice."' 

* What do you mean ? what's that ?' said Edgar, half startled, 
half angry. 

* It comes after the Holy Communion,' said Lance, quite as much 
shocked by the novelty with which the familiar sound struck on his 
brother's ears. 

* Oh ! a pious utterance that only a ^e exalike takes literally.' 

* I should not join in it if I didn't mean it,' muttered Lance, in 
the most brief matter-of-fact way. 

' Then why aren't you living barefoot on bread and water in a 
hermitage?' 

* Because that's not my duty. It would not be reasonable.' 

* There's great force in that word,' began Edgar, with a little 
scoff in his tone, but altering it into one of more eamestness. 

* Now, Lance, I want to understand your point of view. How 
does that formula hinder you?' 

* Because,' said Lance, much against his will, *it wouldn't be 
making my soul and body a reasonable sacrifice, to turn the 
training I had for God's praise into singing love songs to get money 
and fame.' 

* Why do you assume that beauty and delight of any sort is not 
just as pleasing to God as your chants and anthems ?' 

* No. One is offered to Him, the other is mere entertainment' 

* So is the first to most folks. Now, you boy, honestly, do you 
mean that it is not much of a muchness with sacred and profane, 
so far as motive goes ?' 

* It is what I am always trying that it should be,' said Lance. 

* Only trying?' 

* Only trying.' 



i 



STAINS GJiATIS. 



129 



* Aiid you consider yourself to be this sacrifice, this victim, by 
singing in a surphce for ladies to whisper about, instead of getting 
trained to interpret — nay, what I do say I maybe, compose — ^the 
grandest human music. YouVe got it in you, my boy/ 

* You may say what you please,' said Lance, turning away to the 
fire. 

* I don't want to vex you, boy, I only want to make it out I 
see the sacrificed 

Vlt was my own fault for saying a word about it to you,' 
muttered Lance. 

* But I don't see the sense of it,' proceeded Edgar, * or what it is 
but your own fancy that puts the one thing up in the heights, the 
other down in the depths,' 

' You must know that,' said Lance, * the fever and transport that 
comes of one kind of music has nothing good in it,' 
' That's the question.' 
' I know it has not for me.' 

* And has the other ?' 

* Of course it has ! Besides, I don't do it for mysel£ Come, 
Edgar, tell me how to direct that letter, and let me go.' 

* You may leave it till I go to town.' 

* That would not be fair. He will want to look out for someone 
else. Tell me !' 

* Not I ! I'm not going to let you make a fool of yourself in 
a fit of religious excitement.' 

Lance smiled. * Much excitement in a cold dark church in a 
wet morning, with not twenty people there.' 

* That's as you work yourself up. Here, sit down and take the 
other pipe.' 

* I can't j I can hardly stand yours, my head is raging !' 

* Oh ! that accounts for it ! Go off to bed, and wake in week- 
day senses.' 

* I wish you'd let me have done with it,' sighed Lance j 
but Edgar shook his head with, *All for your good, my dear 
fellow !' 

* If Balak's messengers will stay the night, it is not my doing,' 
said Lance to himself, as he wearily mounted the stairs to his 
sleepless bed in the barrack ; for though his headaches had become 

VOL. II. K 



Chap 
XXVIH. 



I30 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXVIII. 



much less frequent and disabling, still his constitution was so 
sensitive, that a course of disturbed nights alwa)rs followed any ex- 
citement ; and thus the morrow found him dull and confused 
enough to render his attempts at diligence so far from successful, 
that he was more than once sharply called to order ; and Felix 
came in at dinner-time, exclaiming, *I can't think what's the 
matter with that boy. He seems as if he would never do any good 
again ! * 

^ Prhiskment r muttered Edgar. * You had better give him up 
with a good grace, as I told you before.' 

And being at the moment alone in the room with Felix and 
Geraldine, he not only detailed his plans for Lance, but eagerly 
counselled Felix to invest at least half Thomas Underwood's legacy 
in the National Minstrelsy. 

* Really !' said Felix, in a tone of irony, *this is nearly coming 
to the old plan of setting up a family circus ! Then it is this that 
has so entirely unsettled him ?' 

* That the old must pass away is not sufficiently appreciated 
here.' 

Then Edgar appealed to Cherry for the charms of artist society, 
and the confutation of the delusions respecting it held by Philis- 
tines at home, a conversation only interrupted by the arrival of 
dinner, and the rest of the population. 

FeHx as usual had to go down after a few mouthfuls j Edgar 
followed him to say on the stairs, * I've one piece of advice to 
give. Remember that you are an old Philistine giant, and act 
with due humility.' 

* Is he set upon it ?' 

* I cannot say heart and soul, for heart and what he thinks soul 
are pulling opposite ways. I say, Felix, you should take into con- 
sideration the effect on me. I haven't sat still to listen to so much 
piety since my father's time ; it is a caution to see a little chap so 
simply hteral.' 

FeUx could wait no longer. He found Lance alone in the office, 
resting his head on his desk. 'You'll be in time for dinner, 
Lance I' 

* Thank you, I'd ratlier not Send Stubbs home,* 

* Head-ache ? ' 



STAFS GRATIS, 



1^1 



' Not much now ! * 

Tm sorry I was sharp with you tliis morning, Lance. You 
should have told me ! ' 

' It was not worth while, but I did mean to have done better to- 
day, Felix 1 ' 

' I believe you did. If you think it will set you to rights, I 
would let you oflf this afternoon.* 

' No, thank you ; it is getting better.* 

Felix looked at him a moment or two, then said, * Edgar tells 
me he has been talking to you.' 

' Yes. I hope you have given him a settler, Felix.* 

* Have you ? * 

*I tried, but he would not take it. He thought it was only 
Sunday.' 

' Only Sunday ! * 

'That made me sure it would not do.* 

'You are quite right. Lance. So far as it depends on me, I 
should have done all in my power to keep you from what cannot 
but be a life of much temptation, and I am thankful that you have 
decided it for yourselil You are really content to stay here with 
me?' 

'Content — ^well, not just now; but I shall be again when all 
the remains of the bear-fight have subsided,* said Lance. * I ought 
and I must, and that's enough.' 

With which words he ran out as some one was heard entering 
the shop ; and Felix stood for a few moments over the fire, 
musing on the brave way in which his young brother had met the 
enticement, and on the danger into which his own reproofs,' how- 
ever well-merited, had driven him. 

Lance*s other occupation that evening . did not make him better 
pleased with Edgar's friends. Wilniet had decreed — and he had 
submitted half ruefully, half-merrily — that what remained of his 
salary after his contribution to the house expenses, should be 
guarded by her for his wardrobe, only half-a-crown a week being 
put into his own hands; and as this always managed to dis- 
appear without much to shew for it, she viewed it as quite enough 
for waste ; and indeed, out of what was in her keeping she had 
managed to provide him with a watch. 

K 2 



Chap. 
' XXVIIL 



132 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXVIII. 



With his Monday half-crown, and sixpence besides, he repaired 
to the Fortinbras Arms to pay for his share of the notable break- 
fast j but he found some demur ; Mr. Jones was aghast at his own 
bill, and really unwilling to send it in. The private supper, the 
next day's breakfast, and all that the party had called for, amounted 
to what would make a terrible hole in the receipts of the concert 

As to Lance's pajdng the fifth part of the difeuner, the landlord 
thought it was impossible, and though his three shillings might 
perhaps represent the cost of what he had individually consumed, 
to offer or accept that was not according to rules. Mr. Jones 
would gladly have made this bill his subscription to the organ, if 
he could but have afforded the loss ; but this, as he told Lance, he 
could not do. He listened, however, with a smile of some pity^ 
when Lance assured him that his own and his brother's shares 
should be made up; and Lance picked out the. charge, and 
carried it off to Edgar. 

There again he met with no success. Edgar laughed at him, 
and told him he did not know the privileges of the artiste ; and 
when Lance waxed hot, and declared that if the concert paid the 
expenses of the two stars themselves, it was a wicked exaction 
to make it defray the expenses of either Mr. Alleh or their guests, 
he was answered coolly that expensive articles must be taken on 
their own. terms, and that spoiling the Philistines was always 
fair. 

* Then don't you mean to pay, Edgar ? ' 

Edgar gave his foreign shrug, and made a gesture of incapability. 
He was vexed with Lance, and at no pains to soften matters. 

* Now,' said Lance, with a sort of grave simpUcity, * I under- 
stand what living like birds of the air means.' 

Lance went back to Mr. Jones, and told him that the two-fifths 
of the breakfast should be paid. And in twelve weeks it was done. 
But by this specimen it may be guessed that the new organ was 
not exactly purchased by the concert 



BRYNHILD. 



133 



CHAPTER XXIX. . 



BRYNHILD. 



' Oft with anxious straining eyes 
We watch the coming of some joy long hoped for ; 
And now *tis near. But at its side a dark 
And stealthy thing, that we should fly like death 
Did we but see it, is advancing on us, 
Yes, step by step with those of its bright compeer.' 

King Henry 11., a Drama, 
{Quoted in Helps^ Casimir Maremma.) 

* Which is to have the precedence, Alda's child or ours?* 

* Alda*s child is not likely to be ready for inspection as early as 
ours.' 

* Oh ! I thought you would vote it treason to babydom not to 
begin with Lowndes Square/ 

* My maternal feelings draw me the other way, you see.' 
' You won't confess it to Wilmet !* 

* It is of no use to go to Alda before twelve,' put in Marilda. 
* Cherry had better go to the Royal Academy before it gets full.' 

It was May, and the catalogue of the Royal Academy bore — 

No. 260. — Brynhild ^ . . T. E. Underwood. 

and a good way further on, among the water-colours, 

iThe Lesson j 

Hearing a Story I Geraldine 
With the Kitten Underwood. 

Listening to Music ) 

No. 615. — The Faithful Acolyte • . . Geraldine Underwood. 

* But abruptly turning, 
Hied he to the choir, 
Touched the Altar tapers 
With a flake of fire.' 

{The Three Crowns.) 

So, these having been accepted, Geraldine had come up to town 
to see them in their place. The undertaking was far less formid- 
able than it had been a year ago, for Cherry was now much more 
at home with her cousins. 



Chap. 
XXIX. 






*34 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXIX 



She understood Marilda better now, and reproached herself for 
having taken for worldliness what was really acquiescence rather 
than cause any disturbance in the family such as could worry her 
father, of whose state she had been aware all that last summer. 
Cherry respected her now, though they had little in common. 
Marilda had become too much acclimatized to London to like 
country life. She made some awkward attempts at squiress duty, but 
was far more in her element in her office, where she took on herself to 
attend to business so vigorously, that no one would have known there 
had been any <:hange but by the initials. Felix had been of much use 
to her, and had certainly gained a good deal in consideration by 
the manifest reliance placed on him ; and his position among the 
citizens of Bexley was now a fixed and settled thing. 

Mrs. Underwood, in the inertness of grief, did not move from 
Gentry until she was carried up to town by her strong desire to 
preside at Lady Vanderkisfs confinement She was, however, 
disappointed, for Lady Mary undertook the care of her daughter- 
in-law ; but she made up for it as well as she could by permitting 
all the assiduities from the good lady that Alda would endure, and 
being herself extremely fiiendly and good-natured. 

The first proposal had been that Cherry should go up with them 
and see the pictures. on the private day, but the east wind and 
fljdng threats of rheumatism had prevented this, till Marilda, 
running down to inspect her works at Centry, carried her off, under- 
taking, with better knowledge than before, that she should be well 
cared for. 

So here was the carriage at the door, and Edgar come to escort 
her to the realization of the almost incredible fact that she, as well 
as himself, was an artist and 'exhibitor. She had heard favourable 
opinions, but none the less did her heart palpitate with far more 
of distress than of exultation as at a strange presumptuous un- 
natural position — she, who, while striving to be satisfied with 
faithfully doing her best, had so much wished for success as to 
make it a continual prayer, that the works of their hands might be 
prospered upon both, and to feel it an effort honestly to add the 
clause, * If it be thy will — if Thou see it good for us.* 

She had not seen Edgar's picture, nor himself since the concert, 
and there had been some breaths of rumour which took form ifi 






BRYNHILD, 



135 



the saying, that the absence of the family from Kensington Palace 
Gardens had been a sad thing for him. 

However that might be, he was as much at his * Ch($rie*s' service 
as ever, though with something of the forced manner she had 
known in him at moments of crisis, and which betrayed much 
anxiety. He repeated to her many times on the way that 
Brynhild had been unfairly dealt with in the hanging, and related 
anecdotes of injustice suflfered by whoever did not belong to 
favoured cliques, all which made her uneasy. Of hers he said 
little. She knew that water-colours at the Royal Academy ex- 
hibition received little notice, but had obediently followed some 
crotchet of Mr. Renville's which had taken her thither. Trafalgar 
Square was then still the locality, and when the steps had been 
surmounted, and they stood between the two doors leading to the 
water-colours, it was straight on that they went, for the sight of 
Brynhild was the triumph and delight that Geraldine had figured 
to herself for months past 

It was, as she already knew, in the second room, rather below 
the privileged line ; and at this early hour, the numbers of visitors 
were so scanty that she could see the cocoon shaped glow of yellow 
flame across the room. 

* Oh ! there she is ! She is smaller than I thought.* 

* Just what Polly said. All ladies go in for 'igh hart on the Zam 
zummin scale.' 

She miist have hurt his feelings, she saw, or he would not have 
compared her criticism with Marilda's ; and as she felt that he was 
watching her countenance as he led her forward and lodged her 
opposite. From eager expectation her look became constrained, 
as it shot through her that this was not the Brynhild of the 
sketch and of her imagination. She was disappointed I 

* Well, what ?' asked Edgar impatiently, reading the countenance 
in spite of all endeavours. 

* How like Marilda !* 

* What, Brynhild, the toad ! So she would be. I suppose the 
caricature demoralized me, and the family features are the same.' 

* And Sigurd is Ferdinand.* 

* Nature created him for a model.* 

It was not the likeness to Marilda which gave Cherry the sense 



Chap. 
XXIX. 



136 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXIX. 



of unfulfilled expectation and dissatisfaction. The lofty expression 
the deep awe, the weird cloud-land grandeur that she had connected 
either with the sketch or her memoiy of it, had passed away from 
the finished oil-painting ; and when she had called it small, it was not 
because it was cabinet sized, but because it was wanting in the sense 
of majesty that can be conveyed in a gem as well as in a colossus. 
What was to have been a wild scene of terror in the world of mists 
would look extravagant, and neither the pose of Brynhild's limbs 
nor the position of Sigurd's sword, approved themselves to her eye 
as correct drawing. 

Brother and sister were both far too acute, and too well used to 
read each other's looks and tones, for fencing or disguise to be 
possible. 

' You don't like it' 

* O Edgar !' much distressed, * indeed there is a great deal very 
beautiful, but somehow I had imagined it different' 

* Oh, if you came with a preconceived notion.' 

' Perhaps that's it,' said Cherry, peeping through her eye-lashes, as 
long ago at the great Achilles, and making them a sieve to divest the 
image before her of all that her eye would condemn in spite of 
herself. 

* I see a great deal of beauty, but somehow I thought the whole 
would have been more finished,' she said. 

* Not possible. A rude half developed myth is not in keeping 
with the precision of a miniature. Besides, the finish of Sigurd's 
armour throws back the vague beyond. 

Her feeling had been that the Pre-RafFaelitism of the hauberk 
was too like worsted stockings, and not in keeping with the 
Turneresque whirl of flame and smoke around the sleeping Valkyr ; 
but the disloyalty of not admiring Edgar's picture was impossible 
to her loving spirit ; she listened and looked through her eye-lashes, 
till tliough Brynhild's limbs were to her unassisted sense almost as 
uncomfortable as those of Achilles had been, he imparted a glamour, 
so that she thought she beheld it as it ought to have been, and 
believed it to be so great and deep a work of art that study alone 
could appreciate it 

* Yes, I see — I see it now— I could not before—but that is all 
the better !' 



BRYNHILD. 



137 



The room was filling and they were jostled by a group diligently 
working their way with their catalogue from No. i to No. 1200. 

* What's that glaring red and yellow thing ?' 

* 260, Brynhild. Who was she, Flo ?* 

* Don't you know, Mamma ? That French queen who was torn 
to pieces by wild horses/ 

* I don't see any horses. She is all on fire.* 

* I suppose she was burnt afterwards. And that's the king who 
did it' 

* What a horrid picture !' 

* There's the intelligent public one works for,' said Edgar. 

* Come and try your luck,' 

He paused, however, to show her the difference a foot's 
elevation would have made to his painting ; and she, with a mind 
more at leisure from itself, waited not only to sympathize but to be 
fascinated with the loveliness or power of more than one picture 
past which he would have hurried her, with murmurs at the R.A. 
who had secured the best situation. 

Here they were in the water-colour room, obliged to wait, to 
penetrate the throng round the lesser ones, which were so close 
together that there was no distinct appropriation of the remarks. 

*What a dear little thing!' *Is it all the same child?' * It 
more people than any can't be portrait, she is so pretty.' 

Edgar smiled at her, and she whispered, with great inconsistency, 

* No, it can't be that. Besides, childish prettiness always pleases 
more people than anything high and ideal.' 

She tried to turn to the Acolyte, and two or three gentlemen 
yielded place to the lame girl. * Geraldine Underwood,' said one, 
making her start, till she saw he was reading from his catalogue. 

* I don't remember her name before.' 

* No, and there's so much power as well as good drawing and 
expression, that I should not have thought it a woman's work.' 

This, the most ambitioned praise a woman can receive, made 
her indeed Cherry-red, and Edgar's beaming glance of con- 
gratulation was most delightful 

Certainly, whatever his faults, among them was neither jealousy 
nor want of affectionateness ; and Cherry's success gave him 
unqualified pleasure, both agreeing in tlie belief that she was 



Chap. 
KXIX. 



138 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXIX. 



on a level with the public taste, while he soared too high 
beyond it. 

Her paintings had a strength of colouring unusual in inex- 
perienced artists, perhaps owing to the depth of hue she had 
grown accustomed to when painting for her old woman, and thus 
they asserted themselves, and were not killed by their neighbours, 
but rather, as Edgar said, committed slaughter all round 

Yet * The Acol)rte * was on the whole a dark picture : the Church 
was in a brown dim shade, within which, however, its perspective 
vaultings, arches, and tracery, were perfectly drawn, knowing 
where they were going and what they meant, yet not obtruded ; 
and the Altar hangings, richly patterned in olive green and brown 
gold, were kept back in spite of all their detail, throwing out the 
* flake of fire* and the ghtter reflected on the gold ornaments, which 
had been drawn with due deference to Clement's minute infor- 
mation, while in the fragment of the east window just seen above, 
glittered a few jewels of stained glass touched by the rising sun, 
and to which the subdued colouring of the rest gave wonderful 
glory j and the server himself was so tinted with gray that even his 
white dress did not glare, while his face was the face of Lance, as 
it had been a few years back, bojdsh and mirthful through all its 
dutiful reverence. Of course it was not new to Edgar, but he 
owned that he was always struck by it whenever he came that 
way ; and Cherry heaved a little sigh of parental pride and delight 
as she owned that her little * server* did look better than she had 
expected. 

Then Edgar elbowed her to what was called at home her ' Con- 
stellation,* where she had caught Stella's sweet little head four 
times over — in the seriousness of lesson-learning, with eager parted 
smiling lips with which she listened to a story, with her tender 
caressing expression towards the kitten she was nursing, and with 
the rapt dreamy gaze that her brother's music would bring over 
her countenance. All had the merit of being caught — ^in the first 
sketch — entirely without consciousness on Stella's part ; and 
though she had been nailed to the positions afterwards, it had 
been possible to preserve the unstudied expression that was one 
great charm of the drawings, much more sketchy and suggestive 
than was their companion. 



BRYNHILD. 



139 



It was not easy to maintain a stand before the frame that held 
the four, for people must have told one another of it, and squeezed 
their way to it ; till the poor little artist, growing nervous at the 
press, was grasping her brother tight to make him take her away. 
Just then there was a kind eager greeting, * Good morning ; I am 
delighted to meet you here. You must allow me to congratulate 
vou.' 

It was Mr. Grinstead, too considerate to utter a name that 
would instantly have brought all eyes upon the little lame girl, 
whom the gazers were almost sweeping away. He was full of that 
gracious fatherly kindness that elderly men were prone to show 
her, and solicitously asked where she was staying, and whether he 
might call upon her ; and then, taking advantage of an interval of 
people, he brought her again in front of her pictures. With him 
on Lord Gerald's side of her, and Edgar on the other, she felt safe 
enough to enter into his kind critique, so discriminating as to 
gratify, improve, and stimulate, her far more than if it had been all 
compliment By the time this was over. Cherry could stand no 
longer, and it was time for her visit to her sister, so the sculptor 
did Ferdinand's old part by taking care of her while Edgar hunted 
up their cousin's brougham. 

* Edgar, aren't you coming?' 

* Well ! I can't say the Mynheer's menage likes me better than I ' 
like it.' 

* Oh, Eddie, dear, do. How shall 1 ever get in among all those 
dreadful strange servants ?' 

' What, the crack exhibitor, whose pictures transcend woman's 
genius, afraid of a flunky or two ! ' 

Nevertheless, he let her pull him into the carriage, laughing, 
and demanding whether she could not have opposed coachman 
and footman to their congeners ; but he recollected the stair-case, 
and was all the more amenable that in her he had the only 
perfectly willing auditor of all his whys and wherefores of all 
Brynhild's characteristics, all his hopes of purchasers and plans built 
upon her, and (now that Brynhild was out of sight) the most 
profound believer in her beauties and sublimities. 

The arrival was impressive. The vista of liveries, flowers, and 
marble, was so alarming, that Cherry could hardly have found 



Chap 
XXIX. 



14^ 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXIX 



courage to make her way through them with no support but Lord 
Gerald's; but when she entered the drawing-room the grandeur 
was instantly mitigated by the plainly attired, gentle, motherly 
lady who came forward to greet her with a kiss. * So you are 
Geraldine, the only sister I have never seen, Alda will be 
delighted/ 

Lady Mary Murray must have been rather surprised by the sight 
of * the little deformed one,* with her sweet pensive face of sunshine 
and shade, and the small slender form, as shapely as that of her 
sister, though leaning a little forward when walking. So kind was 
she, that Cherry felt that she could quite spare Edgar when he 
made his retreat, and never observed that he was not pressed to 
stay to see Alda, who had a dress-maker with her, and would send 
down when ready. 

This gave Cherry time to become at home with Lady Mary, 
and to receive some gratifying compliments upon her Constellation, 
united with a little caution on the danger of making the little girl 
vain. * I hope not,' said Cherry much in earnest ; ' indeed, I 
think Edgar and I are mere terrors to all our pretty ones, we teaze 
them so with sitting.' 

* The little boy in a surplice is another brother, I think I heard.' 

* Yes, my brother Lance. He is gone into the business now. 
He was in the Cathedral choir at Minsterham.' 

* Oh I I understood that it was a portrait of the one who was 
in the St. Matthew's brotherhood, in his ornaments.' 

* Oh no. That was Clement ; and I am sure neither of them 
wore anything like that I I made out the ornaments from a 
book.' 

* I am glad to hear it,' said Lady Mary, a little less cordially; 
and when Cherry, recollecting her views, proceeded to lead away 
by speaking of Brynhild, it was to be met with a kind smile and 
avowal that Mr. Underwood's picture was not so easy to under- 
stand. 

Then came the summons to Lady Vanderkist's room. It seemed 
chiefly addressed to her mother-in-law, who, however, extended it 
to Cherry, and proffered a soft, comfortable, substantial arm to 
help her up the stairs. 

There sat Alda, beautiful to behold in white and bright blue 



BRYNHILD. 



HI 



ribbons, thinner than formerly, but exquisitely and delicately pretty, 
and so eager in her conference with her milliner, that she could 
only give Geraldine a hasty kiss, and sign her to a seat, before 
appealing to Lady Mary on some point of clashing taste respect- 
ing her court dress, which was the present subject of engrossing 
interest to the younger lady, while the elder evidently did not feel 
greatly at home or interested in a subject which she said had not 
come before her since the maiden days of Queen Victoria. Indeed, 
when Alda became excited in maintaining her own opinion, she 
put an end to it with gentle but irresistible authority, dismissed the 
milliner, and insisted upon the repose that Alda was inclined to 
laugh to scorn. 

After an exhibition of the little four weeks daughter, a pretty 
creature, in whom mother as well as grandmother shewed plenty 
of pride, the two sisters were left to a ttte d tite, Cherry feeling 
almost hypocritical when Lady Mary supposed them to be so 
eager for it. 

Rather languidly Alda inquired after everyone at home, chiefly 
after Wilmet and Captain Harewood, where he was, and what 
chance there was of his return. Then Cherry talked of the great 
home subject of interest, namely that the organ was actually 
ordered ; but Lady Vanderkist attended little, and it was safer as 
well as more entertaining to let her talk of herself; and she seemed 
to have had a very gay winter, to have been recognized as the 
great lady of her neighbourhood as well as bride and beauty, and 
to have had much sporting society at home and abroad, while 
now she looked forward to a season among the circles which had 
always been the object of her ambition. No wonder that the 
cares and joys of Bexley occupied her but little, and that it was 
not much to her whether Felix was to be a town-councillor. 
However, she was now among people who considered it an 
honour to have a sister exhibiting at the Academy, and she 
professed much eagerness to see the Constellation. * But what 
could have induced Edgar to send such a picture ?* she added ; 
* Adrian says it is the maddest thing he ever saw in his life.* 

* It takes some study,' said Cherry, subduing her indignation. 
' I should think it had taken very little study.* 

* You have not seen it ?* 



Chap. 
XXIX. 



142 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXIX. 



* No of course not yet* I shall gc^as soon as I can, it is so 
stupid not to be able to talk of the Exhibition ; but I don't look 
forward to Edgar's picture at all, I hear the drawing and painting 
are so disgraceful/ 

* There is an apparent carelessness that enhances effect* 

' * Standing up for Edgar as usual. Cherry ! But if you still have 
any influence with him, this is the time to use it. Adrian hears 
that he has taken up with a lot of tremendous scamps. Indeed, 
he saw him on the Derby day betting away with aU his might 
Now he cannot stand that long, and Adrian says I must let him 
know that when he gets into difficulties, he need not expect to fell 
back upon us.' 

* The last thing he is likely to do,' said Cherry, burning with 
suppressed wrath. 

* Well, give him a warning, and tell him to be careful how he 
comes in Adrian's way. It upsets me so when he comes ia and 
asks where I think he has met my precious brother.' 

* I don't see,' cried Geraldine, breaking out, * why a place should 
be worse for one than for the other.* 

Alda drew up her head with a little contempt, but instead of 
flpng out as when they were on an equality, she merely said, 
* Don't you?' 

Then Geraldine recollected herself, and tried to say meekly 
something about the difference made by being able to afford it; 
but though Alda was kinder than usual, and changed the subject, 
there was no more real comfort throughout the visit, and she went 
home to be unhappy. Here it was as hard as ever to behave 
properly to Alda. Her presence seemed always to rouse the spit- 
fire propensities, of which Cherry would otherwise have been 
unconscious ; and what was far worse was the misgiving that she 
had only spoken too truly. Cherr)r's heart sank, scold it as she 
would for sinking. Her will might adore Br3nihild, but her sense 
assured her of grievous carelessness in the execution ; and when 
she recalled Edgar himself, she knew there was something in- 
definable about him that confirmed Alda's suspicions. 

Her own success had been real and brilliant, but through it all 
her heart ached with apprehension as she became more conscious 
of the difference with which her doings and his were regarded, 



BRYNHILD, 



143 



and could not always succeed in attributing everything to personal 
politeness to herself. She was staying on to take a few more 
studies, and to collect materials for the illustrations of a serial tale, 
an order for which Mr. Renville had procured her; and she 
found herself quite at home at those pleasant little parties at his 
house, treated as one of the confraternity who had won her stand- 
ing, and with new comers begging to be introduced. Mr. Grinstead 
was always there, and a real friend and protector among strangers \ 
and all was delightful except the reserve about Brynhild, and the 
frequent absence of Edgar, who used once to be always welcome, 
and like a son of the house. 

Even at Lady Vanderkist's, Geraldine found herself a mild sort 
of lion, when Alda came out into the world and found that her 
sister was viewed as having done something remarkable. 

Not that there was much intercourse. There was an invitation 
to the christening, extended even to Edgar and the school girls ; 
but Lady Mary was more the mover in this than Alda herself. 
Edgar excused himself, and it was not a very brilliant festivity. 
Indeed, one anxiety on Geraldine's part was lest Lady Mary's 
engaging kindness should embolden Angela to break out aloud in 
the wrath and indignation that stiffened her nedk and shone in her 
eyes at the bare dull christening on a week-day — standing all alone 
— in an ugly *pewy' church. A luncheon, at which the health of 
Mary Alda Vanderkist was drunk, was the only honour to the 
occasion ; and Sir Adrian, though not actually uncivil, looked as 
usual bored, and left the amiable and gracious to his wife and 
mother. 

Mrs. Underwood was indignant, and abused him all the way 
home. All Lady Mary's kindness had not hidden from her the 
feet that Alda was ready to spurn aside the scaffolding by which 
she had mounted to her present elevation, and was only withheld 
from so doing in consideration of Marilda's wealth ; while Marilda, 
with her unfailing good nature and instinct of defence towards Alda, 
declared that all arose out of anxiety lest Sir Adrian should be 
wearied with them, and bluntly declared, * You know, Mamma, we 
are very tiresome people ; not like Cherry here, who always has 
something to say.' 

* Oh 1 Cherry is a genius, but without that people needn't be 



Chap. 
XXIX. 



144 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXIX. 



tiresome, as you call it, to those that brought them up, and made 
them what they are/ 

* We didn't bring up Sir Adrian, Mamma.' 

* I'm not talking of Sir Adrian. One expects nothing from a 
fine young man about town; but, Alda, that was like my own 
child to me, never so much as asking us to see her in her court 
dress !* 

* She ought to have done that,' said Cherry, who had been 
reckoning the quantity of pleasure that could have been so cheaply 
given. 

* Now depend on it. Sir Adrian doesn't like his wife to make a 
show of herself,' cried Marilda, hitting on a subtly delicate motive 
rather than have no weapon of defence for this favourite cousin. 
Certainly there never had been a fuller adoption as sister and 
brother than hers had been of Alda and Edgar from the moment 
they had been given to her. She respected and trusted Felix, and 
was free and kind with Cherry and all the rest ; but her affection 
for these two was quite a different thing, and resolutely blind ; 
and this — ^just as last year with Wilmet — made her comfortable to 
Cherry, since she too ignored all that could be against Edgar, and 
fought his battles fiercely when mother or grandmother, picked up 
reports of his idleness, of the ill success of the National Minstrelsy, 
in which he was somehow concerned, and of the unsatisfactory 
habits into which he was falHng. 

Very dull were the evenings when he did not come, and only 
worn through by reading aloud. No doubt the house in its quiet 
widowed condition was far less attractive than of old, and that 
the lively young man should neglect it, even with his favourite 
sister there, was more to be regretted than wondered at; but 
whenever he did come, he was greeted with delight, petted and 
made much of, as if with the desire to secure that presence, though 
it was not always as much of a sunbeam as of old 

One afternoon, however, he hurried in in a state of ecstasy, A 
wealthy manufacturer, noted as a purchaser of modem pictures, 
was in treaty for Brynhild ; and Edgar looked on his fame and 
fortune as made. Three days ago the taste of the cotton-spinnei 
had been denounced as dependant on fashion and notoriety. Now 
his discernment had gone up to the skies, and Edgar was wan 



BRYNHILD. 



145 



dering about the room in his exultation, talking to Cherry of a 
winter trip to Rome, and ready to promise everything to everybody. 
Only the next day, however, came out the principal art journal, 
containing the long expected mention of Brynhild. 

* Alas ! No. 260 was disposed of in two lines as *the flaming 
production of a tyro in suspense between the Prae-Raffaelite and 
the Tumeresque, who in the meantime had better study the 
primary rules of drawing.' 

Poor Geraldine ! She shed a great many bitter tears over the 
cruel verdict, while Marilda characterised it as wicked, ill-natured, 
and spiteful; and when Edgar came to them they received him 
with tenderness and s)rmpathy that would have befitted his 
sentence in his own proper person. 

He was crushed as he had never been before. He did not abuse 
his critic. Indeed, he had candour enough to tell Cherry that 
her editorial experience might have taught her the need of 
shedding a little life-blood now and then for the public to slake 
their thirst upon, but this very charitableness almost proved it to 
be his life-blood. 

The intended purchaser had not gone so far but that he could 
draw back, and this breath of hostility had effectually blown him 
away. He had broken off his treaty and declined Br3mhild. 

* I don't blame him,' dejectedly said Edgar ; * all the other 
critics will yelp in suit, and he would be the laughing-stock of his 
fellow cotton-lords; but he has done for me. The very sight of 
"Sold" upon my picture would have saved me.' 

* Shall you be worse off than before ?' asked Marilda, 

* Of course one is, for having been led to make engagements 
under a deception. But there — never mind. Don't vex yourselves 
about me. I'm the most miserable dog in the world, and that's 
all about it' 

* Dear Edgar,' said Cherry, smoothing his hand, * maybe the 
opposition paper will take up another line.' 

' Not a hope, Cherry. That demolished me long ago, only 
they were all too merciful to show it to you. This was my last 
chance.* 

He lay back in a sort of collapse of complete depression. 

Marilda, meanwhile, sat writing at her davenport, and presently 

VOL. II. L 



Chap. 
XXIX. 



146 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap 
XXIX. 



rising, came towards him with a closed envelope. * There, Edgar,' 
she said. * Now put " Sold" on your picture.' 

* Polly, Polly, you're a girl of gold !' cried Edgar, starting to his 
feet. * You've made a man of me. I must give you a kiss.' 

To Cherry's amazement, a little to her horror, the kiss was 
given j Marilda only bluntly and gruffly saying, * There then, only 
take warning, and don't be a fool again.' 

* Your warning comes sweetened, my dear,' said Edgar, * and it 
ought to save me. I don't mind confessing that I was in a most awful 
fix. Well, you have Brynhild, and we'll hang her over the drawing- 
room door for a scare-crow, only don't let in any Sigurds who 
won't be as good as you are to art out at elbows !— -Good-bye, my 
Cherry ripe. I must betake me to shaking oflf the toils of the 
hunter, now that this good mouse has nibbled them through.' 

Cherry had not spirit to rally him on his quiet assumption of 
the lion's part And her acceptance of his embrace was not 
warm. To the delicate sense nurtured under Felix, the whole 
proceeding was as painful as it was strange ; and she was longing 
to have sold her pictures so as to relieve him herself. True, she 
had many visions, but she would much have preferred freeing her 
brother herself to seeing Marilda make a purchase to which she 
was indifferent, palpably for the sake of assisting him. 

Maybe he saw the questioning look in her face, and therefore 
hurried away so fa^t that Marilda broke out in regret at having 
failed to secure him for an intended visit to Sydenham the next 
day, when part of the day would be spent witii friends and the 
rest in the Crystal Palace. It was the sort of expedition Edgar 
hated, and Cherry's pride rose enough against the notion of his 
being purchased to be dragged at Marilda's chariot wheels to 
prevent her from seconding the proposal to write and ask for his 
company. 

She would have been glad enough of his arm through the long 
galleries. The heartless glare and plaster shewiness tired her to 
death \ nor were Mrs. Underwood's friends particularly restful 

When she came home late in the evening, she had hardly energy 
to open a note that lay on the table ; but when she had wearily 
unfolded it, she screamed with amazement and delight Mr. 
Renville wrote to tell her of an offer for the Acolyte, and to 



BRYNHILD. 



147 



propose to her to meet the intending purchaser at his studio on 
the second day ensuing, at twelve o'clock, to consult about an 
order for a companion water-colour, the subject likewise taken 
from the Silver Store, the price of the two together to be £^1^0. 
Here opened the fulfilment of the longing of her heart, ^e 
lightening of Felix's burthen ! Her dreams were a strange maze 
of beautiful forms to be drawn, and of benefits to be heaped on all 
the world ; and her first measure in the morning was to write a 
dispatch to Edgar, begging him to come and support her at the 
interviiew, and almost laying her gains at his feet. 

All day she expected him to show himself, full of advice, joy, 
and congratulation; but he came not Her note must have 
missed him, she supposed ; and she had to experience the lack of 
sympathy, for Spooner had come almost before breakfast was over, 
and Marilda had immediately gone back with him into the City \ 
and Mrs. Underwood was not sure whether it were comifo to be 
elated about selling a picture, and had no council to give between 
Cherr/s sketches of the robin with the wheat-ear, the monk and his 
olive tree, the blessing of the swallows, or the widow Euphrasia 
and her straw. 

When Marilda did come home, she was more glum than Cherry 
had ever seen her. She would not even guess why Edgar made 
no answer, but advised that no one should think about it Man 
could not be always dancing after woman. She was in no better 
humour in the morning, when Cherry expressed her security that 
though he might have come home too late to answer her note, he 
would not fail her at the appointment 

No such thing, he did not come for her ; nor did she find him at 
the studio, where Mr. Renville was however a perfectly kind and 
sufficient protector, in the arrangements with the courteous and 
gracious old nobleman who viewed it as a duty to encourge art, 
and intended the pictures to adorn his daughther's drawing-room. 
The choice fell on Cherr/s favourite, the red-breast, and altogether 
the mterview would have filled her with transport if only Edgar 
had been there to share it She could not believe him to be so 
changed as to neglect her out of mortification at the contrast 
between her success and his own ; but the bare idea poisoned the 
laudatory critique in the Times of her two productions. 

L % 



Chap. 
XXIX. 



148 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXIX. 



It was Mrs Kedge's birth-day, when her family always dined 
with her at her old-fashioned hour of five. When they set off, 
Cherry faltered an entreaty that they might call and inquire for 
her brother at his lodgings, but this was so curtly, almost harshly, 
negatived, that she feared that she had unwittingly proposed 
sometliing improper. Still there remained the chance of his 
coming to the festival, where he was certain of a welcome. It 
would be so like his good nature, that Cherry never r^inquished 
the hope through the hot stuffy dinner, when, after the two elder 
ladies had sighed, shed a few natural tears, but wiped them soon, 
over the absence of poor Mr. Underwood, they took to City gossip, 
occasionally rallpng the two young ladies on their silence and 
abstraction ; Mrs. Kedge contriving to joke at her grand-daughter's 
supposed loss of her 'eart, and at Cherry for having made such a 
conquest with her hart. 

Just as dessert came in, and Geraldine was reflecting with a 
sort of dreamy despair that it was the hour for driving in the park, 
there came a thundering knock, and Cherry bounded on her chair, 
exclaiming, * There's Edgar ! ' while Mrs. Kedge cried out, 
laughing, ' Just like him ! I knew he*d be in time for my pre- 
served ginger. Ah! Mr. Hedgar, trust to — What! isn't it him? 
Who is it, Mary ?' handing the card to her. 

* Mr. Travis !' Marilda and the maid exclaimed at the same 
time ; and the next moment he stood before the quartette, re- 
ceiving a cordial welcome from all ; for though Mrs. Underwood 
might bridle a little, she remembered that Alda was safely disposed 
of, and that he was now an undoubted millionaire depending on 
no one's good-will. Geraldine was flushed, and quivering between 
pleasure, shame, and the moment's disappointment ; and Marilda's 
broad face flashed for a moment with a look of indescribable illumi- 
nation and relief, then subsided into its usual almost stolid calm. 

For himself, he looked more like what he had been as Peter 
Brown's clerk than the Life-guardsmen, for he had outgrown the 
boyish display of ornament, though he had never lost the fine 
military bearing that so well became his figure ; but he now had a 
grand black beard, which made him more romantic-looking than 
ever. His countenance was as usual grave, but not so depressed 
or languid as formerly, and indeed it lighted ijato glad animation 






BRYNHILD, 



149 



at the unexpected sight of Geraldine, as he wrung her hand with 
the fervour of a brother. He sat down ; but except to drink 
Mrs. Kedge's health he accepted none of the eager offers of 
hospitality, but said he was to dine with Mr. Brown at eight 
o'clock. He had come home on business, and -not being able 
to wind up his uncle's affairs quickly, thought he should have to 
spend his time between England and America for a good while to 
come ; but he hoped to run down and see Felix, * and to hear 
about the organ.' Cherry had so much to tell him about the 
building of it, and of Lance's delight in the prospect, that she 
forgot her anxieties for the moment, till he asked after the success 
of the concert, and she had to tell him of Edgar and his stars. 
He looked at his watch, and said he should have time to see after 
Edgar before dinner. *Ah, do!' said Cherry; * and find out 
whether he got my note, I haven't seen him these four days !' 

There was a break-up from the dining-room ; and Ferdinand, 
smiling a sort of apology to Mrs. Kedge, offered his arm to Cherry 
to take her up to the drawing-room, where except on these great 
occasions no one ever sat ; Marilda managed to linger on the 
stairs, so as to intercept him on his way down. 

* Mr. Travis,' she said, * you will do me a great favour, if you 
will call on me at our office between ten and twelve to-morrow. 
Can you ?' 

* Certainly,' he replied, much surprised ; but she flew up the 
stairs before any more could be said. 

She was at her counting-house in full time, sitting at the library- 
table in the private room, just like her father, opening letters and 
jotting on them the replies to' be made by her clerks, without often 
needing to take counsel with Spooner. 

At ten o'clock a clerk brought up Mr. Travis, and he was soon 
seated opposite to her, not quite so unprepared as on the previous 
day. 

* Thank you for coming,' she said ; * I knew you were the only 
person whom I could trust in for help.' 

* I shall be very happy,' he began. * Is it about Edgar Under- 
wood ?' 

* Do you know anything?' 

* Only that no one at his rooms seems to know where he is.' 



Chap. 
XXIX. 



ISO 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXIX. 



*Ah!' (as if expecting this). * Now, I know you would do 
anything for Felix Underwood and the rest, and can keep silence. 
To speak would be worse than anything.' He bent his head : 
and she went on, * Read that. No, you won't understand it;* 
then collecting herself, * Poor Edgar ! you know what he is, and 
how he can't help running into debt We gave him his tastes, and 
it is our fault This year he managed to do a picture, an odd red 
and yellow looking thing, but very fine, with a lady fast asleep in 
the middle of a fire. Well, he thought he had sold it, and made 
sure of the price, when some spiteftil newspaper abused it, and 
the shabby man was off his bargain, and left the picture on his 
hands. He was so frightfully downcast, and I had reason to 
think him so hard up, that I thought I'd take the picture off his 
hands ; and so I popped a cheque for a hundred, done up in an 
envelope, into his hand, not telling him what it was — ^more's the 
pity. We were out all the next day, and he called and wanted to 
find out where we were gone, but the footman is stupidity itself, 
and could not tell him. He came three times; but we were 
racketting at that miserable Sydenham, and did not get home till 
eleven. If he had only come in and waited ! The next day came 
Spooner to me in a terrible rage. Now, promise, Mr. Travis, 
that this is never mentioned. On your honour !' 

* On my honour. Never ! ' 

* My cheque had been presented with the one hundred changed 
into four. The clerk at the bank doubted it, and had come here, 
and Spooner came to Kensington about it I believe I went 
nearer to a lie than ever I did before ; I said it was all right, and 
stood to it so that they both had to be pacified You see,' as she 
saw how shocked Ferdinand was, * he was in great difficulties, and 
he only meant it for a trick which would have been explained 
directly, if only I had not been so unfortunately out of reach.' 

* You don't mean that you would overlook it?' 

* Well, it seems that I was altogether wrong about the value, as 
pictures go. Of course I thought it rather too bad, and meant to 
give him a piece of my mind and frighten him thoroughly ; but ever 
since poor Cherry has been pining, and wondering at his not coming ; 
and yesterday I got this — addressed here, no doubt that Cherry 
might not see it, but marked private to keep Spooner's hands off' 



BRYNHILD. 



»5" 



She thrust a sheet of paper into his hand. 

Dear Marilda, 

Had I seen you yesterday, I should not be in my present plight I 
rehearse continually in my own ears the assault I had in readiness for you for 
your ignorance of the market price of art. Brynhild may be worthless, but if 
she be vorth a penny, she is worth ;f 250, which was what that gay deceiver 
was to have given. I had liabilities which I had staved off; indeed, my villain 
of a landlord only refrained from seizing my goods and chattels on the promise 
of the cash instanter. Other debts I durst not face. All that was left of your 
father's bequest is gone in the smash of the National Minstrelsy. County 
courts yawned on me, and only promptitude could save me. But verily I would 
not have taken a sheep when a lamb would have sufficed the first wolf, xiotte 
would have lent itself to transformation into anything but a cool Jour, Your 
round hand has been the ruin of me, Polly. It must have been the loop of 
your e that undid me. Nevertheless, I had the odd ;£'iSo in my pocket to 
Iiand over as your rightful change, (and maybe have begged of you,) when thrice 
I failed in finding you ; and as I was coming this very morning — or was it 
yesterday ? I'm all in a maze — I saw Spooner dash by in a cab, and knew it 
was all up with me ! 

Don't believe so badly of me as he has told you, dear old Poll. I have put 
myself out of his reach that he may have the less chance to break Felix's heart 
For myself, I don't care a rap what becomes of me ; but if it be not too late, I 
implore you to screen him and poor little Geraldine from the knowledge. Let 
them think it a simple flight from creditors — true enough in all conscience, as I 
fear they will soon find. 

If it have got wind, I need not beg you to spare them and let Lance know 
that I am thankful to the * early piety ' or whatever it was that kept him out of 
the scrape. Some day all shall be repaid ; but until then you have seen and 
heard the last of — your not ungrateful in heart, however ungrateful in deed — 
the most miserable and unlucky of dogs, 

T. E. U. 

* Where was this posted ?' asked Ferdinand. 
*At Ostend. Here's the post-mark.' 

* Has he sent back the ;£i5o ?' 

* Oh no ; of course he must have that to go on with.' 

* It would have been more like repentance if he had sent it' 

* No, no j he couldn't He would have had nothing to live on. 
Besides, it makes no real difference. Don't you turn against 
him, Mr. Travis, for I have no one else to trust to. I can't tell 
Felix ; for it might do him serious harm in his business, and he 
might not consent to hush it up. Then Clement is a formal prig ; 



Chap. 
XXIX. 



152 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXIX 



and Lance is a boy, and couldn't get away. Nobody but you can 
do any good.' 

* And what is it that you wish me to do ?* 

* I wanted your advice, first of all ; I had no one I could 
venture to talk to, lest he might think some dreadful thing his 
duty, and go and tell !* 

* There can be no palliating the criminality of the act,' said 
Ferdinand gravely; but for the sake of the — the innocent—' 
(his lip quivered at the word,) *it may well be concealed, 
since you are so generous. Vanderkist might make a cruel 
use of it.' 

*And I think it would kill Cherry. What I wished was— 
since one can't write with no address — if any one could go after 
him, and tell him that not a soul knows. I do believe now, 
after this shock, he might be sobered and make a new start ; not 
here perhaps — ^ 

* I'll go !' cried Ferdinand. * 1*11 do my business with Brown, 
and start by to-night's steamer. Do you know where he is likely 
to be?' 

* His wish has always been for Italy, but it is hardly the season ; 
and my dread is of his going to Hesse Homburg, or Baden, or 
some of those places, hoping to retrieve this money.' 

* I'll look, I'll make every inquiry. I'll never rest till I have 
found him !' said Ferdinand, with the earnestness of one delighted 
to have found the means of rendering an important service to his 
dearest friends. 

* I felt sure that you could and would, from the moment I saw 
you,' said Marilda, * When your card came in, there seemed to 
open a way out of this dreadful black misery.' 

* Remember,' said Ferdinand, * it would not be right to bring 
him home at once on the former terms. You forgive him, and for 
the sake of his family you do not expose him ; but he ought not 
to be reinstated.' 

* Not only for his family's sake — for his own !' cried Marilda. 
* He is just like my brother — it was only between brother and 
sister. But you are right,' she added, as the man's grave look of 
severity recalled her from her sisterly championship ; ' it would 
only be running him into danger again. He had much better go 



BRYNHILD. 



153 



and study in Italy ; and he can be helped there, if he will only 
keep out of mischief.' 

She then mentioned all the haunts of his she knew of in Belgium 
and Germany ; Geraldine might know more, but how was she to 
be told ? Marilda had a perfect terror of renewing the condition 
into which she had last year been thrown, and besides feared her 
quickness of eye might discover the secret She hoped to keep 
her in ignorance till Ferdinand could send home tidings, and 
make Edgar write what would be some comfort after the suspense ; 
but when the time that, at the lowest computation, must elapse 
before anything could be heard was reckoned, they both felt that 
it was cruelty to keep Cherry in her present state. A week more 
would be enough to destroy her. 

But Marilda, though a strong-minded woman enough ordinarily, 
shrunk with dismay from telling her. Should Felix be written to ? 
There was no doubt that so soon as he heard the tidings from 
Cherry, or otherwise, he would hurry up to investigate and to take 
her home ; so that to ask him to come and break it to her was 
hardly giving him unreasonable trouble. Besides the secret 
might be safer, so managed. Thus, the two generous spirits who 
sat in council first destroyed poor Edgar's letter, lest it should ever 
serve as evidence against him ; and then Marilda wrote — 

My Dear Felix, 

Geraldine will have told you that we have not seen Edgar for some 
time. From a note received from him, I have reason to believe that debts are 
the cause of his flight Mr. Travis is kind enough to follow and see what can 
be done ; but I do not know how to tell poor Cherry, and if you will come up 
1 will meet you at the station at 1 1.30. 

Your affectionate cousin, 

M. A. Underwood. 



Chap. 
XXIX. 



iU 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. XXX. 



CHAPTER XXX. 

THE SCULPTOR. 

* Her heart, her life, her future, 
Her genius,' only meant 
Another thing to give him. 
And be therewith content.' 

A, A. Proctor, 

By the time Felix could obey Marilda's missive, and enteied 
Cherry's sitting-room, she had come to such a state of mind, that 
not even his pale, fixed, mournful face was needed to make her 
lie back in her chair, gazing piteously up at him, murmuring, 
* O Felix, what can it be? What has become of him?* 

* Marilda has heard from him,' said Felix, kneeling down by 
her, and holding her hands. 

* Heard ! Oh, why did she not tell me ?' 

* She feared to pain you. My poor Cherry, nothing has hap- 
pened to him ; but his debts have come to a crisis, and he is gone 
off to the Continent. That good fellow, Feman, is gone after 
him, to see what can be done for him.' 

* And he wrote to Marilda V asked Cherry, greatly bewildered. 

* Yes ; from Ostend.' 

*'He wrote to her ! Did you see the letter?* 

* No, she had made away with it She was so shy and short 
about it, that, Cherry, I suspect that distress had brought poor 
Edgar, as a last resource, to try whether she would accept him.' 

*0h!* cried Cherry, starting forward with conviction, *that 
would account for it all!* And she told of all that had passed 
about Brynhild, now ten days ago — Edgar's despair, Marilda's 
ready assistance, and the manner of acknowledging it ; and both 
agreed that there was strong presumption that he had taken her 
kindness as encouragement to venture on a proposal. This 
would fully account for her silence and ill humour ; and the de- 
lusion, perfectly unsuspected by her, was the best possible auxiliary 
in guarding her secret, by preventing the brother and sister from 
pushing her hard with inquiries, and sufficiently explaining what- 
ever was mysterious. Indeed, if Edgar had had the face to make 



THE SCULPTOR. 



155 



the proposal, there was some grace in the shame that had caused jChap.xxx. 
his disappearance ; and luckily for Marilda, Cherry was far too 
modest and shame-famed to allude to her own suspicions. She 
only longed exceedingly for home, and yet could not bear to 
leave the readiest place for receiving intelligence. 

Felix could not of course rest without doing his part towards 
inquiring, and went off to Edgar's lodgings, and also in quest of 
the National Minstrelsy people, whom Lance had assured him to 
be the most likely to give him information. He came back 
depressed and jaded, and went straight to his sister's room. She 
could see in a moment that he had found out nothing. 

* Nothing I The National Minstrelsy shut up a month ago. 
Allen and his family had left their lodgings, and given no address. 
I tried the post-office, but they grinned at me, and said many 
gentlemen came inquiring. I went to two or three music-shops, 
and asked after him and after the Hungarians, but with no better 
success ; no one knew anything about them. Then I found my 
way to his lodgings.' 

' Ah ! I wanted so much to have called there, but Marilda 
would not let me.' 

* As well you did not Did you know that he had his rooms in 
partnership ?' 

* No — ^never !' 

* Nor heard him speak of a man — an artist, named Malone ?' 

* Yes. I have heard of him. He has got two pictures in the 
British Institution. Poor Edgar wanted me to admire them, but 
I couldn't ; they are Scripture subjects — Ruth and Rachel — made 
coarse and vulgar by being treated with vile reality — ^looking like 
Jewish women out of fruit-shops. He always said Tony Malone 
was the best fellow in the world, but he never told me he lived 
with him.* 

* I was quite ^ taken by surprise. Tlie poor little miserable 
looking maid said Mr. Underwood had not been there for ten 
days ; and when I said I was his brother and wanted to ask some 
questions, she fetched her mistress, who said hie had paid up just 
before he went away, but that he had given no notice, so there 
was this ten days. Of course this was reasonable; besides, I 
wanted to bring home his things ; so she took me up to his rooms 



156 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. XXX. 



while she went to make out his bill, and I thought entirely that 
I had come wrong, for I found myself in such a den as you can 
hardly conceive — light enough of course, but with the most won- 
derful medley of things imaginable, and in the midst a table with 
breakfast, and a brandy bottle; a great brawny sailor, half 
stripped, lying on the floor, a model for Samson, or Hercules, 
or somebody; and this man with a palette on his thumb, 
a tremendous red beard, and black elf locks sticking out all 
manner of ways. And that was the place he wanted to take 
Lance to ! * 

* He wouldn't have let it get bad if I^nce had been with him. 
Besides, you old bachelor, don't you know that an artist must Uve 
in a mess and have models ?' 

* Of course, I know that, Cherry. I did not expect things to 
be what your friend Renville makes them for his young ladies ; 
but the odour of spirits, the whole air and aspect of the place, had 
something that gave me a sense of hopelessness and dissipation, 
when I found that those really were Edgar's quarters, and that he 
had concealed his sharing them with this Malone ever since he 
left Renville. The man behaved very well to me, I will say that 
for him, as soon as we had made each other out, and seemed very 
fond and rather proud of Tom, as he chose to call Edgar ; but he 
is a prodigious talker, and a rough coarse kind of fellow, exactly 
what I couldn't have fancied Edgar putting up with.' 

* I dare say it was out of good nature.' 

* Half of it, no doubt ; iniieed, he gave me to understand as 
much. Edgar can't but be kind wherever he goes; even that 
wretched little slavey cried when I gave her a shilling for helping 
his things into a cab, and she found he was never coming back ! 
I should think he had spoken the only kind words she had ever 
heard in her life.' 

* But this man must have told you something ! Had he no 
notion where he is gone ?' 

* None at all ! He knew thus much, that Edgar came into his 
room about ten o'clock in the morning — he couldn't tell what day, 
but we made it out it must have been on Thursday the 3rd — ^ 

* The day ufter we went to Sydenham. Well I ' 

* — Looking pale and scared, and saying, " I'm done for, old 



THE SCULPTOR, 



157 



fellow — I'm off!" That is all he is clear of, for he was just waked 
and fast asleep again directly;* 

* At ten o'clock in the morning I' 

* Well, Cherry, I'm afraid' there had been a carouse the night 
before. Edgar had sold his picture, you see, and had cleared off 
old scores — z. few of them, at least. He was restless — Malone 
said in and out — all the day before ; he could not make him out 
I fancy he had sent his letter to Marilda, and was awaiting a reply, 
which she must have sent, or he have called for, early the next 
morning ; and after holding off all day from the jollification in honour 
of the sale of his picture, and deputing Malone and his other 
friends to hold it without him, he joined them at the theatre towards 
ten o'clock, and went to a cider cellar with them afterwards, where 
I should gather that he was in a state of reckless merriment, but 
quite sober — yes, Malone eagerly assured me of that, as if that were 
a merit to be proud of in my father's son ! Well, poor fellow 1' 
added Felix, his bitter tone changing to sorrow, * he seems only to 
have thrown himself down on his bed without undressing; but 
Malone, who made no secret of having been "screwed" himself, 
only knew of his looking in in the morning. He had driven up, it 
seems, in a cab, which he kept waiting — ^not ten minutes, the 
landlady says — ^and he carried off his violin case and about as 
many clothes, I should imagine, as he could stuff into his port- 
manteau in the time — not by any means all ; but one thing at 
least you will be glad to hear of. Cherry, the photograph of my 
father ! Yes, I am quite certain of it ; for when Malone was 
helping me to collect the other little matters out of his little hole of a 
bed-room, he said, when we came to the mantel-piece, " Yes, that's 
the only thing he has taken — the photo that stood there ; a parson 
far gone in decline, the very moral of himself — ^your father, wasn't 
it?"' 

' At least that is a comfort ! Poor Edgar, I am sure he will 
soon write, even if Ferdinand misses him. You have brought his 
things ?' 

* Only his clothes, his sketches, and a book or two. His 
jewellery — ^he used to have a good deal, I think.' 

* Never so much as Fernan, but in better taste.' 

* That was gone. I thought it right to take an inventory of 



Chap. XXX. 



158 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. XXX. yf\^2X I took away, and get it attested by the landlady and Malone; 
and I left it with them, in case the creditors should think I had 
taken anything of value.' 

* The creditors, ah I' 

* Yes. I have brought a carpet-bag stuffed choke full of bills, 
as heavy as I could carry, though of course many are the same 
over again. Time enough to look them over at home.' 

* And paying ?' 

* No. I am not liable for them. 
^ But, Felix, you cannot let his name be dishonoured !' 

* My dear Cherry, that is talk out of books. I have no right to 
give away what barely suffices for maintaining and educating the 
younger ones, for the luxury of satisfying these claims and clearing 
Edgar's name. It would be robbing the innocent for the sake of 
the guilty.* 

* O Felix, how can you ?' 
' Guilty at least of extravagance and recklessness, Cherry, though 

in a geneious way. He had paid up, as I told you, for the lodgmg 
— all for Malone as well as himself; and when the landlady brought 
up an exorbitant bill, charging my country innocence three months 
in advance, Malone fought her with such vehemence, that I never 
came in for such a battle royal, and was ready to cut and run, only 
to be quit of the pair of them ; and after all she subsided, and was 
content and civil with only a fortnight in advance !' 

' I think a great deal must have been the fault of those musical 
people. I know Edgar risked some of Mr. Underwood's money 
with them.' 

* All, I believe, that he did not owe, or was not forced to pay 
immediately, and that was a regular smash ; but I do not think he 
was liable for any of their debts. These looked to me more like 
personal luxuries.' 

* Well, Felix, if you will not pay them, I will, as I can, and when 
I can.' 

* Do not say I will not. Cherry, but ask yourself whether I ought 
either to incur a debt myself, to trench on the capital of the 
business, or take home the children from school You know, for 
we have tried, that stinting more than we do already becomes 
privation ; such as, though we elder ones might willingly endure it 



THE SCULPTOR. 



159 



for our fediings' sake, exacerbates the younger ones, and really 
would be unjust towards them/ 

Cherry hung her head, with tears in her eyes. ^ And is that just 
to the creditors ?* she said. 

* Well, Cherry, I cannot say I have much pity for the tradesmen 
who trust such a young gentleman as Edgar. If it be their system, 
depend upon it, they have means of compensation. Ch^rie, sweet, 
indeed I am not hard-hearted, I would cut off my right hand to 
bring that dear boy back a free man. When we hear from him — 
and I have looked over those miserable bills — I may &id some 
means of compounding with the creditors ; but I cannot despoil 
Angel and Bernard and Stella of education or comfort for what he 
has done.' 

* But I can — I will — I may,' cried Cherry, with excitement ; * I 
shall be able to do it all ; Mr. Renville said I might make ^£300 a 
year, and that would soon do it I You will not hinder me, Felix ?* 

* No,' he said, kissing her \ * it's not the way in which your 
earnings ought to go, my Cherry ; but you are quite free, and it 
will make you happier, I know.' 

* And you will not let Marilda help ?' 

* No, not if it can be helped without wounding her too much. 
You see she is taking her own measures through Travis.' 

* I could not endure her doing it,' said Cherry, glowing with a 
sort of pride. * And I am the one who ought My drawing 
would have been worth just nothing at all but for him ; and all 
this success is through him, and it is so cruel he can't have it, 
when it signifies so much more.* 

*So Sir Bors always thinks,' said Felix, fondling her; but true 
to his own faith, he continued, ' But Edgar is not past the age for 
success yet Only three-and-twenty, remember, and this grievous 
lesson may be just the making of him. We know he has a warm 
heart and plenty of power ; and though we must make up our 
minds not to see him for a goo I while, he will come home from 
Italy some day a made man.' 

* Oh yes, his sketch of Brynhild shewed that he could do any- 
thmg. Do you know, I think that having such a companion as 
that Mr. Malone almost accounts for his having gone wrong. If 
he can only fall in with some real nice companions ! If he would 



Chap. XXX. 



i6o 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. XXX. board at Munich with some family like the dear Frau Renville's. 
What a letter we will write to cheer the poor dear fellow up !' 

Felix and Geraldine never failed one another in that cardinal 
article of theirs, trust in Edgar's genius, and in the love that hoped 
all things, believed all things, and endured all things from him— 
all things personal, namely, for Felix never entirely overlooked 
the having tried to tempt away Lance into the life of which one 
passing glimpse was enough for his fastidious home-bred spirit, 
unable to appreciate the fascination of freedom and unconven- 
tionality. Altogether they had talked themselves into hope and 
consolation that surprised Marilda, when, after waiting till her 
patience could endure no longer, she knocked at the door, to ask 
whether Felix had discovered any clue by which Edgar could be 
traced. 

It was one of those requitals of generosity that are felt inade- 
quate because the generosity is really unsuspected. Felix and 
Cherry could not be as unreserved with her as if they had felt her 
a sister and one of themselves, and not as one whose bounty 
Edgar had abused. They did not — ^nor was it in the nature of 
things that they could — ^understand that Marilda's feelings towards 
him were as fraternal as their own, nay, had the force of exclusive- 
ness, and the tenderness of protection; and so, though Felix 
replied to her inquiries, it was not with the detail and confidence 
he had shewn towards his sister; and the more she questioned 
and remarked, the more they both felt inclined to shrink into 
themselves. In fact, they knew so little worse of him than before, 
that after the ten days' agony there was a sort of reaction, without 
much visible weight on their spirits. Felix had business which 
made it needful to stay another day ; and as he was going out 
Cherry begged him to take charge of a small box containing a 
cast which Mr. Grinstead had lent her to copy, and she did not 
like to entrust to any chance hand. 

* If you would send in your name,* she said, * I think he would 
let you see his studio, and I do so want you to see his figure of 
Mercy knocking at the wicket-gate.* 

* I. thought he never did admit strangers.' 

* Oh I Geraldine is favoured,* said Mrs. Underwood, with a 
laugh. * Depend upon it, anyone belonging to her will have the 



THE SCULPTOR. 



16] 



>niray. But go, go by all means. They say his house is a 
perfect little bijou. — Isn't it, Geraldine? She went to a party 
then*, you know, chaperoned by Mrs. Renville, and met Lord de 
Vigny.' 

Felix knew all about it, much better than did Mrs. Underwood 
—that little select dinner of the tlite of the world of art and genius, 
to which Mr. Grinstead had asked Cherry about a fortnight ago, 
and which she had described with such delight. He had not 
much heart for strangers and works of art at that moment, but he 
could not refuse Cherry's commission, nor vex her by omitting to 
ask to see the studio ; so there, in the course of the morning, he 
found himself, alone at first among the statues and casts — grave 
and graceful creations — more from the world of Christian than of 
classic poetry, and if less aesthetically beautiful, more solemn and 
more real 

He had gone in meaning only to fulfil his duty to Cherry, but 
he found himself attracted and enchained, and was standing before 
Cherry's favourite figure of Mercy, drinking in, as it were, the 
beseeching wistful spirit of faint hope that breathed from the 
whole figure, when a crimson curtain was lifted, and a gentleman 
of about five-and-forty or fifty, but grey-haired and looking older, 
came with a soft tread towards him. 

* Mr. Underwood, I believe.* 
Felix bowed. 

*I am very glad to have the pleasure of making your ac- 
quaintance.' 

* I am very much obliged for my admission. I should not have 
ventured, but that my sister was so anxious that I should see what 
she enjoys so much.* 

Mr. Grinstead smiled, and quietly did the honours, while Felix 
—though, of course, untrained — ^modestly showed himself full 
enough of taste and intelligence to be worthy of an artist sister ; 
Mr. Grinstead treating him all along like an honoured guest, and 
taking him farther into his private rooms, to see some favourite 
old German paintings, and to offer luncheon. 

The house did indeed deserve Mrs. Underwood's term, fitted 
up with all that carved wood and well-chosen simple colour could 
do; and with wondrous gems of art — all the refinement ana 

vou II. M 



Chap, 
XXX. 



1 62 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap, 
XXX. 



beauty that a bachelor, when he does choose, can bring together, 
even better than a lady can. 

* How long shall you be in town ?' had been an early question, 
answered by, * I take my sister home to-morrow ;' and then, when 
it had struck Felix that his host was becoming increasingly 
thoughtful and absent, and he was trying to take leave, but was 
always prevented, Mr. Grinstead asked, * Should I be likely to 
find your sister at home if I called this afternoon ?' 

* Not early,* said Felix ; * I think she has some commissions to 
finislu I am to meet her at five. I am afraid I must wish you 
good morning.' 

* A few minutes longer. Mr. Underwood, I must begin by 
making you a confession, and asking you a question. Do you 
think there is any chance for me with that sweet little sister of 
yours ? * 

* With Geraldine !* Felix laid hold of the back of a chair, 
feeling as if his senses almost reeled, though whether consterna- 
tion or exultation came uppermost, he could not have told. 

* Yes/ was the reply. * I am speaking abruptly, but I am taken 
by surprise at finding that you intend so soon to take her away. 
Indeed, I believe these are matters on which long consideration 
often ends in a sudden plunge,' he added, smiling a little, as if he 
wondered a little to find himself in a situation that seemed to 
reverse their ages ; indeed, Felix was by far the most embarrassed. 

* I do not think she is at all prepared,' was all that occurred to 
him to throw into the gulf of silence. 

* Perhaps not,' said Mr. Grinstead, rather wistfully. * I see you 
think the notion a preposterous one,' he continued, with some- 
thing unconsciously of the elder's tone towards inexperienced 
youth, though there was pleading in it too; and he put a chair in 
his visitor's way, and speaking quietly though eagerly, as FelLx 
tried to utter some polite disclaimer : * I see the disparity myself, 
though perhaps less strongly than you do. Forty-six does not 
feel itself so vast an age as five-and-twenty may think it The 
truth is this. I was made a fool of, as befalls most of us ' (Felix 
looked more assenting than he knew, poor fellow !), * and was liit 
harder than some, I believe. At any rate, the distaste it gave me 
was invincible, till I met with that wonderful compound of bright 



THE SCULPTOR. 



i6.l 



ness and tenderness — spirit and sensitiveness — I cannot help it 
She has haunted me ever since I first met her last year ; and if 
there be nothing in the way on her side, I believe I could make 
her happy/ 

' There is nothing in the way/ repeated Felix, as an honest 
man, but with a sense of a jewel being dragged from him, and 
reheved to have something to say that was not all consent * It 
is a very great honour for our little Geraldine to be so thought of, 
but I think you should be aware that she has nothing of her own, 
and— poor child — is sadly frail and feeble in health.' 

' For that,' said Mr. Grinstead, * I think you may trust her to 
my care;' and he spoke eagerly, as if longing to be taking care 
of her. ' And though I am a self-made man, I have had pros- 
perity enough to be able to secure a comfortable provision for 
her.' 

* Thank you — ^yes,' hastily said Felix. * It was not that I was 
thinking of.' 

* I see you are against me,' said the sculptor, perhaps antici- 
pating the answer that actually came — * Selfishly, sir ; only 
selfishly. Geraldine is so much our life and light at home, that your 
—your proposal was a shock to me ; but I see the very great 
advantage it would be to her, and I could not desire anything 
better for her.' There were tears in his eyes, and the last words 
came with a choking utterance. 

* I see,' said Mr. Grinstead, * that I am doing a hard thing by 
you, and that to hold out the idea of her becoming even more to you 
sounds like mockery. Besides, I am too far from secure to begin 
to spare any pity for you. Now tell me, can I see her this 
evening? Where are you to meet her?' 

* I am afraid I cannot propose your joining us then,' said Felix, 
more cordially, * for it is to be at the Baker Street Ba-zaar, about 
some very domestic shopping ; but I believe we shall come home 
between six and seven o'clock.' 

* Very well ; you will find me there. You will use your own 
judgment as to preparing her.' 

Very domestic shopping indeed it was. The ancient coal- 
Jcutde, a Froggatt legacy, had three decided holes in it, an 
rt'^ilmet had a vision of one glimpsed in Baker Street She would 

M 2 



ChA'-. 

XXX. 



i6 



1 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXX. 



not trust either Felix or Cherry to choose it separately, but con- 
jointly she thought they might counterbalance one another, and 
combine taste, discretion, and economy; and they were both 
afraid of failing her. 

The very contrast of that commission, and the importance 
ascribed to it, with the ease and luxuriousness in Mr. Grinstead's 
house, served to bring before Felix the sense of the promotion for 
Geraldine that he was so ungratefully accepting. Little tender 
being, the first to wither under the blight of penury, how could he 
grudge her the sunshine of ease and wealth, cherishing care, 
prosperity, beauty, society — all that was congenial to her ? No, 
indeed — he rejoiced. Yet how rejoice — ^when every time he 
came in from his work, he felt it a fresh blank when he did not 
meet her responsive look of welcome, or hear the half-quaint, half- 
pathetic tones that made much of the tiniest adventure of the 
day. His heart was sore enough at Edgar's evasion, and to lose 
Cherry from his hearth would quench its most cherished sparL 
He had been so secure of her, too. She had seemed so set apart 
from marriage, so peculiarly dependent on him, that it had been 
to her that he had turned with a sort of certainty as his companion 
in the Ufe of self-sacrifice that he knew to lie before him. It was 
no small part of that sacrifice, that as he went to and fro on foot 
and by omnibus in the busy streets, he was schooling his spirit to 
look on the change not as desertion of himself, but as a brilliant 
and happy prospect for the little sister, who had powers and 
tastes such as ought not to be buried in the room over the shop 
at Bexley. He must keep the regret well out of mind, or he 
could never persuade her naturally, or avoid poisoning her 
happiness. 

Should he prepare her ? That must be left to chance. And 
chance was not favourable, for when he had found his way into 
the pit at the Baker Street Bazaar, appropriated to ornamental 
ironmongery, he saw her accompanied by Robina and Angela, 
whom Mrs. Underwood had good-naturedly sent for to spend her 
last afternoon with her. There was a sort of pang when Cherr}''s 
face greeted him, and her hand nestled into its accustomed hold 
on his arm just where it had leant by preference these sixteen 
years \ and as she said in her low playfiil tones, ' Is it not a cunoua 



THE SCULPTOR, 



i6c 



Study to see invention expended on making an intrinsically hideous 
thing beautiful by force of japan, gilding, and painting ? You see 
the only original design nature provided for a coal-scuttle is the 
nautilus shell, and unluckily that is grotesquely inappropriate ! 
Just look at the row of ungainly things craning out their chins 
like overdressed dwarfs. I am decidedly for the simplest and 
least disguised, though Robin is for the snail, and Angel, I 
believe, for that highly suitable Watteau scene. Which do you 
vote for?* 

*The most likely to satisfy Wilmet,' said Felix absently, knowing 
he should hate whichever it might be, and wondering who would 
ever again put so much interest into common things. 

* The scuttle of Mettie's dreams appears to be no more,' said 
Cherry ; * but as Robin always seems to me guided by her spirit, 
I am inclined to think it safest to go by her judgment' 

* Robin represent Wilmet ?' repeated Felix, scanning the pluftip, 
honest, sensible face, as that of his destined housewife ; and not 
a bad prospect either practically, though without the charms that 
specially endeared Cherry. 

She thought him absent, feared he had heard some fresh ill 
tidings of Edgar, and though reassured on that head, lost the 
zest she had caught up, and the selection was pretty well left to 
Robina. 

There was no opportunity of confidential talk ; the children 
were with them all the rest of the drive, and were to return with 
them to dinner ; and that Angela was much shocked and subdued 
by the tidings of Edgar's flight did not conduce to privacy, since 
it silenced the tongue that generally sheltered any conversation I 
Nor could Felix succeed in hurrying his three ladies : they had a 
great deal still to do, and awe of Wilmet made them very par- 
ticular in the doing of it, so that it was not till perilously near 
dinner-time that he brought them home, and there, on a hurried 
excursion to the drawing-room to notify the arrival, was Mr. 
Grinstead discovered. He had called, avowedly to wish Miss 
Underwood good-bye; and the mistress of the house, with perhaps 
an inkling of the state of alfairs, had asked him to stay and dine. 
She could not help it, as she said, in excuse to her daughter, who 
always hated clever men, especially associated the sculptor with 



Cha*'. 
XXX. 



i66 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXX. 



all the misery of the day of Alda*s rupture with Ferdinand, and 
also wanted to have had Felix to herself this evening. 

So she favoured the party with as little of her civility or con- 
versation as possible ; not that it was much missed, for Chen}' 
was perfectly unsuspecting, and expanded into wit and animation 
as usual ; and Mr. Grinstead, to Felix's surprise, was not rendered 
either silent or distrait by his suspense ; and Felix himself had 
learnt conversation as a mechanical art in his trade, and could do 
his part, with cares and anxieties packed away. 

After the ladies were gone, there only passed the words — 

* Can I speak to her?' 

* I will fetch her.' 

* You have not prepared her?* 

* I had not a moment' < 

* Better so, perhaps.' 

Felix led the way to her painting-room, having luckily delayed 
just long enough not to encounter the two children fetching 
the purchases for a great display. From this discussion, so 
dear to the female heart, he snatched the unsuspicious Cherry, 
with the few brief words that Mr. Grinstead wished to speak to 
her in her sitting room. 

* An order 1 oh, it must be an order !* echoed among the sisters ; 
and as Angela skipped up after them to fetch some further article 
to be shown off, there was no opportunity of even a hint except 
from Felix's agitated face, and the unconsciously convulsive squeeze 
of the little fingers between his arm and his side. He put her in a 
chair, and hurried off, disregarding the *0 Felix, are you going?* 
but shutting the door, and returning to the dining-room to keep a 
restless watch. 

It lasted — what must have been a shorter time than he expected, 
terribly long as it seemed. Mr. Grinstead came downstairs, and 
Felix's heart bounded at the first footfall. 

The kind, far-seeing, thoughtful face did not betray much. He held 
out his hand. * Thank you, Mr. Underwood,' he said ; * I hope I 
did not distress her much. I have only one entreaty to make to you. 
If you should find that there is any allowance to be made for the sur- 
prise and shock, and newness of the idea, you will be a true friend, 
and not let pride or delicacy prevent you from letting me know.' 



THE SCULPTOR, 



167 



* I will not,' said Felix, ready to promise anything to comfort a 
man who had lost the Cherry he retained. 

' It is nonsense, though,' added the sculptor ; * she is much too 
sincere and transparent a creature to trifle with feelings. Those 
innocent things are not to be won so late in life. Go up to her. 
She will want you. What a rival you are ! I will make my 
excuses to the ladies.' 

Felix held out his hand, too sorry for him now to know what to 
say; and after a strong grasp, they went their different wa)rs. 

Felix found Geraldine cowering down in her chair, with her 
hands clasped together over her forehead. She looked up at him, 
as. if startled by his entrance. *0 Felix, how could you?* broke 
from her. 

* My dear, I could not help it. Has it been so very distressing ?' 

* Oh !' with a great gasp, * I'm sure to refuse ; a man is the 
most horrible thing in the world — except to accept him ! And 
such a man too — so great and good and kind. You shouldn't 
have let him do it, Felix.' 

* Don't scold me, Cherry ; how was I to know you would not 
like it ?' 

* Felix ! an old man like that I' 

* Well, that's decisive,' said Felix, laughing at the tone ; * but, 
indeed, I did think you admired him very much.' 

*So I do — but not in that way — not so as to bear to see 
him lower himself — and — and have to grieve him — * and the tears 
started from her eyes. * But you know, he only could have done 
it because he saw a poor little lame thing and wanted to take care 
of her.' 

' I think it goes a good deal deeper than that. Cherry.' 

* I'm very sorry,' said Cherry. * How very disagreeable it is 
that such things will happen ; I thought, at any rate, that I was 
safe from them ; and he was such an old man, and such a kind 
friend, that I was so proud of; and now I have vexed him so — and 
it is all over.' 

* Do you really regret it ? are you sure you did not speak only 
in the first surprise ?* 

* Felix ! you ! you to be against me 1' 

* Mot against you, Ch^rie.' 



Cha?. 
XXX. 



i6S 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chai'. 
XXX. 



She interrupted with a cry of pain. * Oh ! don't let anybody 
call me that till Edgar comes home again !' 

' My poor Cherry !' 

Then there was a silence ; her head was on his shoulder, and 
she was crying silently, but so profusely that he could not tell 
whether her tears were all for Edgar or for new feelings stirred in 
her heart. 

* Cherry dear, don't you think we ought to look at it 
reasonably ? If you do not feel as if you cared for him — ^like a 
novel — ^yet still — ^ 

* Hush, Felix ! he is much too good to be accepted any other 
way.' 

* I am not sure that he thinks so.' 

* I do, then !' said Cherry, raising her head up indignantly. * I 
should be ashamed to marry any man without 1 A lame, sickly, 
fretful thing like me ought to bring real love at least, to make up 
to a man for being bothered with her. Come, Felix, have done 
talking sensible nonsense ! I know you don't wish it, so don't 
pretend.' 

* I am making no pretence. It would be a dreadful business 
for me ; but all the more I think I ought to make you consider.' 

* Consider ! Oh ! I'll consider fast enough ; that beautiful 
drawing-room, with the statues, and the conservatory — and a 
carriage — and going to Italy ! Do you think I am going to be 
bribed by things like that ?' 

* No ; but to have one so fatherly, kind, and tender — ' 

* As if one wanted one's husband to be fatherly !' 
* — ^And the safe position^' 

* I declare you are talking just like Alda 1' 

• * But if you don't like him, there's an end of it' 

* I like him, I tell you ; but not so much as the tip of your 
little finger !' 

* Perhaps not, now ; but — ' 

* Felix ! You don't want to get rid of me ? I know you were 
right to argue with Wilmet, and persuade her, because she had let 
her heart go, and only was afraid to acknowledge it ; but mine 
isn't gone, and couldn't go. If I had not learnt to work, and had 
not a work to do, I might try to think of freeing you from a 



THE SCULPTOR. 



169 



burthen ; but now that I have, why should I upset it all, and 
wrench myself away from you ? When I lean against you, I have 
got my home, and my rest, and all I want here, I never go 
away from you but I feel that I do want you so ; and when 
one feels that, what's the use of looking out for somebody else ?' 

* Dear little Sweetheart ! Yes !* as she lay contentedly against 
him, with his arm round her ; * it only makes me tremble, that you 
should give up a home like that, and risk so much upon my one 
life. The other boys love you dearly, but they are more likely to 
make ties for themselves ! and if — ' 

* I should love you better dead than any other man alive T 
cried Cherry impetuously. * I won't do it, Felix ! so spare your 
dutiful remonstrances ! I do hate them so, and I know you don't 
mean them.' 

* Mean is not the word. Cherry. The more I hated making 
them, the more I felt bound to do sa' 

* There, then ! You've done.' 

*Yes, I've done. My Cherry, my Cherry! you don't know 
how much lighter the world seems to me than it did half an hour 
ago!' 

* you foolish old Giant I And there come those irrepressible 
children ! Oh I I hope and trust they have not found it out !' 
cried Cherry, bounding up from her sentimental attitude, as Angela 
was heard galloping up the stairs. 

But there was this benefit in dealing with a veteran, that he 
knew how to keep his own counsel and other people's. Angela 
came dashing in. * Oh ! here you both are 1 Mr. Grinstead said 
he had forgotten, after all, to give you this letter. He said you had 
better write to the lady herself. It is a capital order, he said 
—you've been settling about it, haven't you ? What are yoyx going 
to do?* 

* I don't quite know, Angel,' said Cherry, seeing the letter was 
addressed in a strange hand to the sculptor; and thereupon 
venturing to open it, and finding it contained a request to obtain 
from Miss Underwood an engagement for a set of studies similar 
to those in the exhibition, if it were true that these were not for 
sale. It was from a lady of wealth and taste, whose name was 
well known as a patroness in the artist world; and Cherry 



Chaj'. 
XXX 



I70 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXX. 



could quite understand that Mr. Grinstead had kept it back, 
with the feeling that were she his, no toil should be hers for the 
future. 

That was little recommendation. Her first rise out of useless- 
ness gave her more exultation in its novelty than did even the 
exercise of her art or the evidence of its success. There was some- 
thing exquisite in the sense of power. She had made up her 
mind to give Wilmet quarterly the same amount as was charged 
for Lance, to set aside just enough besides to clothe herself, and 
that the remainder of her earnings should liquidate Edgar's debts ; 
so that some day she should write to him to come home a free 
and unburthened man. Viewed in this aspect, that huge carpet- 
bag, stuffed to bursting with bills, had not so frightful an aspect, 
but rather seemed to her a dragon to be conquered for Edgar's 
sake ; and Felix laughed at her for tendering him the cheque for 
her Acolyte, and asking him just to pay off a few of them before 
leaving town. He had to explain to her that equity and custom 
required that no one should have the preference, and that she must 
wait till she could either pay off the whole, or else make payments 
of so much in the pound. 

* Like a bankruptcy ! That can't be worth while. Those are 
your business ways !' 

' I fear you little know what you have undertaken. Remember, 
there is no call to pay any of it.' 

* Indeed ! Oh ! why does not that tiresome Ferdinand write?' 

* There has not been time.' 

* He could have telegraphed !* 

Marilda was likewise much disappointed at hearing nothing; 
but discussion was trying to her, and she dreaded her cousins' 
sharp eyes so much, that it was a relief to her to escape them. 
Nor could they linger, for Wilmet was anxious about Lance, who 
was exceedingly miserable ; and in his anxiety hardly knew what 
he was about, scarcely what he said. 

If Wilmet wished him to feel what a narrow escape his had 
been, he broke into despair that he had not been with Edgar. 
The room and the room-mate that had seemed so disgusting to 
home-bred Felix, had fascinated him by their charming disregard 
of wearisome propriety, and their congenial eccentric liberty ; and 



THE SCULPTOR. 



171 



the picture of Edgar coming home in his distress to his sleepy, 
half-conscious comrade made him wretched. He treated regret 
like censure, and alarmed as much as scandalised Wilmet by 
longings to have been there to share the wanderings, which, even 
if they amounted to starvation, could not, he averred, be *half so 
hatefol as standing behind a counter.* 

Perhaps he had never before been so near showing temper as 
in his arguments with Wilmet, and his determination to defend 
Edgar through thick and thin 5 and she was almost relieved when 
after the disappointment of finding that there was no news from 
Ferdinand, he collapsed into one of his attacks of headache. 
Nay, for weeks, though about again and at work, the lad was not 
well nor thoroughly himself; he seemed, like Cherry, to be always 
watching for tidings that never came, and unlike her, he made 
light of whatever could be construed into censmre of any taste of 
Edgar's. 

Felix, though unwilling to pain him, thought it might be 
wholesome to let him see for himself the facts of Edgar's life, and 
accepted his assistance in sorting the bagful of revelations of self- 
indulgence and dissipation, which he knew Lance's lips might 
defend, but never his conscience. 

Judging as well as they could by the dates and charges, there 
had not been much amiss except carelessness of expenditure before 
Alice Knevett*s defection, eighteen months back; but this had 
been succeeded by a launch into every sort of excitement, so 
increasingly painful and disgraceful, that Felix declared at times 
that it was profanation to let the proceeds of Geraldine's pure and 
high-minded art be spent in discharging such obligations. There 
were traces of an endeavour to pull up after Tom Underwood's 
legacy, which would have far more than cleared Edgar, if he had 
been satisfied to do more than merely pay * on account,' and stave 
off difficulties, until the main body of the bequest had vanished 
between gambling and the crash of the National Minstrelsy. 

Meantime the weeks of Edgar's silence and absence were running 
on to months, and nothing was known. Ferdinand Travis's quest 
had been an utter failure. Baden, Homburg, Spa, Munich, Paris, 
Florence, Rome, Monaco, had been searched in vain ; ingenious 
advertisements in the second column of the * Times' were unnoticed ; 



Chap. 
XXX. 



173 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXX. 



Chap. 
XXXI. 



and though there was no outward difference in the manner of the 
two who loved him best, each bore about a heavy yearning heart- 
ache and foreboding — ^the one, that there must be something, worse 
than was known, to lead so affectionate a person thus utterly to 
efface himself; the other, that some terrible unknown accident, 
lake-storm or glacier-crevasse, could alone account for such pitiless 
disregard of home suspense. His relics had been hidden away like 
those of the dead, with sad reverence ; and his name was never 
mentioned except now and then in low sad tones in a tete-ct^Ute. 



CHAPTER XXXI. 

THE BARBE BLONDE. 

* ** And neither toil nor time could mar 
Those features, so I saw the last 
Of Waring." **You! O never star 
Was lost here, but it rose afar. 
Look east, where old new thousands are." * 

Browning, 

The first thing that really cheered Lance was an enforced 
holiday of the organist, when he was asked to undertake the church 
music in the interregnum. He threw himself into the work, 
consulted Dr. Miles, who lent him books, and gave him lessons ; 
and the whole current of his thoughts became so soothed and 
changed, that Felix attended to no remonstrance on the danger of 
unsettling him, but truly declared that the few hours he weekly 
gave to scientific music was more than compensated by his in- 
creased power of attention, and steadiness of concentration on his 
business, as if he there found the balance needed by his sensitive 
nature. 

His head too, instead of aching more, as Wilmet had feared, 
suffered less ; but there was a change in him. He had experienced 
the bitterness of sin, as nearly and as bitterly as was possible to one 
yet intact He had looked down an abyss, and been forced to 
recognise that had he followed Edgar into what he had tried to 
believe merely exciting, artistic, or free, he could hardly have been 
spared a flaw in his life. It was when wrapt in the grandeurs o^ 



THE BARBE BLONDE. 



173 



sacred harmony that this sense dawned on him. It was most true 
of him that * the joy of the Lord was his strength.* Respectability 
had no power over him, he had a liking for the disreputable ; but 
his reverence and delight for the glory and beauty of praise seemed, 
as it were, to force him into guarding his purity of life and 
innocence of mind, which might otherwise have been perilled by 
his geniality and love of enterprise. At any rate, after the first 
shock to health and spirits had passed off, he retained a more 
staid manner, entirely abstained from his former plentiful 
admixture of slang, caught more of Felix's demeanour, and ceased 
from those kinds of sayings and doings which used only not to give 
his sisters an impression of recklessness because they knew he 
always did rectify his balance in time. 

Meantime another interest arose ; for ] ohn Harewood had got 
his promotion, and had obtained leave to come home and try for 
an appointment Wilmet had reason to believe him actually on 
his journey, when one morning, early in October, Lance, who was 
waiting in the office, was startled by WilFs entrance, asking, * Have 
you had a telegram ?* in a scarcely audible voice. 

* No 1 What is it, Bill ?' said Lance, dismayed at his counte- 
nance. 

*That dear Jack !' and thrusting two telegraph papers into his 
hand. Will threw himself down on the high desk, hiding his face, 
with long-drawn gasps of anguished grief, to which he could only 
now venture to give way ; nor did Lance marvel, as he read — 

Rameses, Egypt, October 3rd, 2.30 p.m. 
Major Harewood to Rev. Christopher Harewood, the Bailey, Minsterham, 

England. 
Boiler explosion. Severe scald. No pain ; probably will be none. Dearest 
love to W. W. and all. Poor Frank Stone killed. 

The Other, which had arrived at the same time, was dated, 

6 p.m. 
Charles Chenu, Surgeon, to Christopher Harewood. 

Injuries not necessarily mortal, unless from extent. Wanted, good nurse, 

K'ater-bed, linen, and all comforts. 

* There's more hope in that !' said Lance. 

*I have none! Don't you remember poor Tom the stoker? 



CHAr. 
XXXI. 



«74 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 

XXXI. 



*Twas just what they said of him/ said Will, raising his face for a 
moment. * And here the/ve sent me to tell Wilmet ! I— 
Lance, I just cannot do it 'Tis bad enough at home !' and he 
lay over the desk again, almost convulsed with grief. 

*I will go and tell Wilmet,' said Felix, who had come in 
unperceived by him, and received the telegrams from Lance. 

* She is at Miss Pearson's. Is any one going to him, Will ?' 

* My poor father T gasped William. * I don't believe it is any 
good ! BuU I shall go with him, unless — He sent me on to see 
whether she — ^Wilmet would go. You won't let her, Felix? I 
must go on to see whether I can get a nurse at St. Faith's.' 

* I believe Wilmet will wish to go,' said Felix. 

* And be the best nurse,' added Lance. 

* If there were any nursing to do,' said William, looking at them 
in amaze. * I haven't the least hope he can last till we can come 
out ! But my father will hope — that's the worst — ^and wants to 
have her rather than me. Don't tell her so, though ; I don't know 
what I am saying. Only she should not be persuaded to go! 
Oh, that it should come to this !' 

* I will leave him to you, poor fellow !' said Felix, beckoning 
Lance to the door, as William again flung himself across the desk. 

* I think she will go, and that it will be better for her.' 

He was interrupted by the arrival of a telegraph boy with a 
message to him in his editorial capacity, which threw more light 
on the accident. 

Telegram from Alexandria, October 4th, 7 a.m. 
Serious explosion of locomotive engine at Rameses, on the Suez and 
Alexandria line. Engineer and stoker killed. English officer injured, without 
hope of recovery. 

Felix gave it to his brother, and went on his melancholy way- 
seeing Miss Pearson first in her parlour, and then sending for his 
sister. 

Wilmet was just what those who knew her best expected. 
While there was scope for action, she would never break down. 
She inferred at once that the surgeon expected the comforts he 
sent for to be of use, and dwelt upon Mr. Harewood's kindness in 
allowing her to accompany him. As soon as she arrived at home, 
she scolded William, and made him find sense and hope, which ir 



THE BARBE BLONDE, 



173 



truth he had only lost when, instead of having to support and 
comfort his impulsive mother and sisters, he could afFord to give 
way himself. He could now give a coherent account of his father's 
plans. Mr. Hare wood was hastily arranging matters at home, 
and would be on his way to Southampton by the last train. If 
Wilmet would go with him, she was to meet him at the station — 
either with or without a nurse, as she might judge needful. Her 
decision was against the nurse. She reminded Will that his 
brother had with him a Christian Hindoo servant, who had already 
proved an efficient attendant in an attack of fever ; and she her- 
self had some experience of scalds, through Felixes accident, and 
one that had befallen a servant of Miss Pearson's. Expense, the 
prostrate despair of the family at home, and his own college 
duties, had alike decided that if she went out, William must remain 
in England ; but he was despatched to St Faith's, where the 
needful appliances were always 4cept, and could be made over in 
such an emergency. 

Meantime Wilmet, grave but steadily calm, made her prepara- 
tions. She devised means of providing a substitute at Miss 
Pearson's, bethought herself of everything requisite ; and when 
Geraldine pursued her, trying to help, but panting and sobbing 
nervously, it was only to be put down on a chair, and warned not 
to knock herself up. The keys were made over to her, but with- 
out directions or injunctions; only one soft whisper — *Dear 
Cherry ! after all, you have made me able to do this.' 

Felix would not be denied going to Southampton with her, Mr. 
Harewood was looking out for her at the station, with the resolute 
mask of indifference that both must assume for the journey. He 
took both her hands, and said, * Thank you, my dear ; I knew I 
should see you.' And she said, * Thank you, for letting me 
come.' Then she took charge of his plaid and umbrella, and it was 
plain that thenceforth she would be his guardian daughter. 

When Felix and W^illiam left the two on board the Havre boat, 
they knew that the Wilmet of old was gone for ever. She must 
come back with a great change upon her ; but who could guess 
whether that change would be for weal or woe ? 

On went Mr. Harewood and Wilmet by steamer and by rail, unable 
to obtain intelligence, and maintaining absolute silence on the one 



Chak 
XXXI. 



176 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXI. 



thought that filled their minds, each solicitously tender of the other's 
comfort and fatigue, though both tacitly agreed that nothing was 
so trying as a halt 

When they reached Marseilles, they found the P. and O. agency 
certain that if Major Harewood were not living it would be known ; 
and they likewise learnt that Rameses was a sort of little French 
colony around a station that the works for the Suez Canal were 
raising to an importance it could hardly have enjoyed since it was 
a treasure city of Pharaoh; and, while obliged to await their 
steamer, they obtained counsel on the articles likely to be most 
needful for their patient, and hence they telegraphed an announce- 
ment of their coming, and were repUed to by the Hindoo servant, 
Zadok Krishnu — ' Not worse/ 

At Alexandria they found themselves expected and welcomed 
Interested countenances and S3rmpathising greetings were ready 
for the father and supposed sister at both consulate and hotel ; 
and from the name of the engine-driver, Frank Stone, who hid 
been killed, Mr, Harewood perceived that John must have re- 
cognised in him a clever Minsterham boy, and this accounted for 
his having joined him on his engine, where indeed it was suspected 
that he had been trying to help him obviate the dangers caused by 
Oriental indifference and fatalism. The injuries were regarded as 
hopeless, from the great extent of surface ; and there was a kind 
preparatory intimation that all that could be hoped for was to find 
life not extinct, for that opiates were required to such a degree 
that there was no consciousness, M. Charles Chenu was a clever 
young French doctor; and a deaconess from the Alexandrian 
branch from Kaiserswerth was in attendance, as well as an 
Englishman who had been in the train, and all the alleviation 
possible had been given. 

That was all the comfort to be had while waiting for one of the 
few and tardy trains, which at length set the travellers down at the 
strange little town of European houses and Arab hovels in the 
midst of the sand, distinguished by a boulevard and line of pahn 
trees. At the station stood a short brown-faced figure, in white 
turban and trousers, and scarlet tassel, sash, and jacket, who with 
a salute half military, half Oriental, inquired in good English for 
their luggage, and in reply to their anxious questions, told them 



THE BARBE BLONDE. 



177 



that the Sahib was lying in the same state of unconsciousness 
produced by opiates. 

The goods, so needful to the sufferer, were all identified, and 
extracted at a great cost of patience, and the travellers were 
escorted, amid incomprehensible Arab clamours, across a place 
ankle-deep in sand, to a one-storied building of such unbumt bricks 
as the Israelites might have made, covering a good deal of ground, 
and combining the caravanserai and the French hotel. A Greek 
landlord and his French wife came forth, and the one talking all 
languages, the other only her mother tongue, but both warmly 
welcoming the arrivals, and assuring them that lepauvre Monsieur 
had had every care lavished on him — Dr, Chenu was there night 
and day. 

A slender, moustached, brisk young man appeared, asking in 
French, in a kindly tone, whether they — especially Mademoiselle 
— could be prepared for so sad a sight as awaited them, but 
assuring theni that the mere fact of life having so long continued 
fiad begun to inspire him with a sort of hope. 

Mr. Harewood*s French was not very available, but Wilmet 
made reply j and they were admitted into a low empty room, with 
windows shaded by screens of reed, through which came a dim 
light, showing a still figure, covered with light linen rags steeped 
in oil and spirit, which a little square figure in dark blue, 
with a neat net cap, was changing and renewing as fast as they 
dried. 

All the preparation could not prevent the father from being 
overwhelmed, and having to turn away to grapple with the shock ; 
but Wilmet, who had all along sustained herself with the re- 
collection of John's reference to her awakening Lance from his 
deadly lethargy, without pause or shyness bent down, kissed his 
forehead, and called him by his name ; and perhaps the full sense 
of his entire prostration only broke upon her when there was not 
the slightest token that she was heard, but the torpor continued 
unbroken by the faintest movement of the half-closed eyes or lips. 
Even then she only looked up with a piteous appealing glance to 
the doctor, who told her that the only chances of consciousness 
were in the intervals between the passing off jf one anodyne and the 
administration of another, but tiiat hitherto these had been spent 

VOL. IL N 



Chap. 
XXXI. 



'78 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXI. 



in a sort of delirium of anguish, that made the renewal of the 
opiate immediately necessary. 

Hope that at least the familiar voices might penetrate through 
the cloud still buoyed the new-comers up ; but when the moans, 
restlessness, and half-utterances of dire suffering set in, the eyes 
opened to dim glassiness, the ears seemed neither to hearnor 
understand, and there was as much relief as disappointment when 
the slumberous potion had again brought back the senselessness. 
Nothing could be done but to moisten the lips and change the rags, 
and these seemed to dry up on one part as fast as another was 
renewed. The face had indeed escaped, and so had the back, and 
for the most part the right side, but the neck, chest, both shoulders, 
and the whole length of the left side were fearfully scalded, wth 
white sodden-looking spaces, the most fatal appearance of all, 
worse than even a deep laceration by a splinter above the hip. 
Day and night Wilmet, the deaconess, and the Hindoo were 
changing the rags, and fanning, or keeping off the flies \ and soon 
there was a great affection between Sister Hedwige and the younj 
Englishwoman, who shared the same desolate room close adjoining 
— or rather, lay down there by turns, Wilmet spoke German 
enough to explain that she was not the patient's sister, but his 
Verlobte^ and that in a matter-of-fact, dreamy kind of way, sub- 
mitting passively to be kissed and cried over by the pu^ little 
elderly German. 

Poor Mr. Harewood could give no active assistance, and was in 
a sad state of isolation, unable to exchange a sentence with any- 
body except Wilmet and Krishnu. He tried I-Atin and French 
with the doctor ; but the diversities of accent foiled him in both, 
and Wilmet had to be interpreter. He was a great charge to her, 
but a far greater comfort There were his constant prayers, and 
the sight and example of his deep resignation ; there was the sense 
of protection and sympathy, the relief and distractibn of attending 
to him, and of gratitude for his care ; and besides, he wrote all the 
letters, for which Wilmet had neither time nor heart. She could 
keep up while acting, instead of realizing, as the expression of 
words must have forced her to do ; while the stnjggle in the father's 
mind, was only not to long unsubmissively for a conscious interval 
at the last 



THE BARBE BLONDE. 



179 



An English army surgeon, who came from Maltii a day or two 
after their arrival, thoroughly approved of M. Chenu's treatment, 
but agreed in his' verdict that any other expectation would be 
futile ; recovery, though not impossible where no vital part was 
injured, was most improbable where nature had so large a surface 
to repair. 

Yet the actual s)nnptoms that would have been immediate doom 
did not appear, biit as one dim sad day rolled by after another, the 
parts least hurt began to show a tendency to heal ; and therewith 
sprang up a conviction in Wilmet's mind that there was not always 
a total msensibility to her presence or Mr. Harewood's, but that 
the face changed at their voices, and that there was a preference 
for her hand ; and then Dr. Chenu began declaring that these 
English had ' complexion's - like rocks, and that if it were not * the 
impossible,' there would be hope; and instead of giving his 
anod)aies with the reckless desire to stifle pain, he become cautious, 
modified them, and only gave them when decisively expedient - 

There resulted a gradual clearing of the senses. There were 
lulls when pain was comparatively in abeyance, and the faculties 
less and less clouded, the eyes regained meaning, and smiles of 
greeting hovered on the lips ; a sense of repose in the presence of 
Wilmet and his father was evident ; an uneasy perception if either 
were absent ; and at last an exchange of words — conscious words. 
When his awakening was marked, not by a groan of pain, but by 
the feeble inquiry, * Whereas Wilmet?* she felt as if she had had 
her reward. 

Once he asked * Where's your brother ?' and when she explained 
that none of her brothers were with her, he seemed confused and 
dissatisfied ; but his voice died into an indistinct murmuring ; and 
when twice again the same inquiry recurred, she set it down to the 
semi-delirious delusions that the narcotics sometimes occasioned 
She knew that an English gentleman had done much for him at 
first, and had only left him the day before her arrival ; and she had 
regretted being unable to discover who he was from lips unused to 
British nomenclature, but had been too much engrossed to think 
much about the matter. But there were now intervals in which she 
fully had her John again, entirely sensible, anxious to preserve his 
consciousness, so as to be desirous of putting off the sedative as | 

N 2 



Chap. 
XXXI. 



(^ 



THE jPILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXI. 



long as he could endure the attacks of suffering without it He 
could listen, and sometimes talk ; and the next time he resumed to 
the puzzling question, *When did your brother go ?' there could 
be no doubt that he was in full possession of his understanding; 
and Wilmet answered, * Dear John, I do not know what you are 
thinking of j Felix has never been here at all' 

* I do not mean Felix ; it was Edgar.' 

* Edgar ! You never have seen him, you know, dear,' said 
Wilmet, speaking softly, as one persuaded that he was recalling a 
delusion. 

* I know that. I never saw him at home ; but he was in the 
train. He was the first to come to me; he said he would 
telegraph. Surely he did so ?' 

' That accounts for the correctness of the telegram !' said Mr. 
Harewood. * I remember now that the wording was so well put, 
that it gave me hope that you must be quite yourself.' 

* What was it ?' 

They could well tell him, for it had seemed branded in fire on 
their minds for days. 

* Yes, that was his doing. I think I only called you her^' he 
said, smiling. * I could trust to his knowing my her of hers' 

* But how did you know one another ? Was it in the train ?' 

* No. Poor Frank Stone recognised me at Suez, and begged 
me to come with him on the engine. I remember his consulting 
me about representing the impracticability of some of his sub- 
ordinates j and next after that I was somewhere on the stones, 
unable to stir hand or foot — ^not in pain, but a numbness and 
faintness all over me, with every sense pretematurally clear, as if 
I were all spirit. I made no doubt I was dying fast ; and when 
some one came to see after me, I begged him to take down my 
telegram to my father while I could give it. I remember his start 
and cry when I gave my name. " Good Heavens !" he said. 
"You are not Jack? Wilmet's Jack ?" and really, I hardly knew; 
my voice seemed to come from somewhere else ; but I saw the 
face over me that belongs to you all.' 

* And did you speak to him ? But no, you were in no state for 
that.' 

* I gave what messages I could think or speak ; but the numb 



THE BARBE BLONDE, 



\%i 



feintness grew on me, and seemed to gather up all my senses. I 
did not seem able to care about anything when I felt myself in his 
hands/ 

* Edgar T repeated Wilmet, still slow to believe. * Did you call 
him by his name?' 

* I cannot tell ; I think I did, I know I no more doubted of 
its being he than I do that you are Wilmet. Ah ! I remember 
struggling between a sense that I ought, and the growing dis- 
inclination to speak, and wanting to tell him to go home, for you 
were all very unhappy about him. Did I get it out? Did he 
answer ? I cannot tell ! No, dearest, I know no more, nor why 
he is not here, Zadok must know ; where is he ?' 

The Hindoo was summoned, and it was elicited that the English 
gentleman had watched over the Sahib day and night, sent the 
telegrams, called in the doctor from Malta, and had acted as if 
the patient had been his brother, only going away by the last train 
before the arrival of Mr. Harewood, and then leaving with him a 
packet only to be given up in case the Major should die without 
recovering the power of speech. It was claimed, and proved to 
contain a record of all that poor John had endeavoured to say, 
but written in a disguised hand, though merely in the spelling of 
the names betraying that the scribe had been no stranger. It was 
plain that he had so entirely thought Major Harewood a dying 
man, as to have made no attempt at concealing his own identity 
from him, but he had kept it carefully guarded from every one 
else ; and Wilmet* s heart smote her as she questioned, ' Would he 
have fled if it had been Felix or Cherry who had been coming?' 

Questions were asked, and ,both M. Chenu and Madame 
Spiridione testified that the gentleman who had attended on 
Major Harewood had been un jeune homme extremement beau — 
grand et blondy but they had no guess as to his name, and merely 
knew that he had gone away towards Alexandria. Botii there 
and at Cairo did Mr. Harewood write to make inquiries, but 
always in vain ; and the trains were so few and so slow, that he 
could not go himself without a longer absence than seemed fitting 
to propose in his son's precarious state, when the very efforts that 
nature was making towards restoration might so easily result in 
fever, or in fatal changes in the wounds. 



Chap. 
XXXI 



lS2 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXI. 



The sight of him seemed to be only less precious to John than 
that of Wilraet. When in comparative ease, it was almost a 
basking in their presence. After his long years of foreign service, 
no one could guess, he said, the delight it was to look at them ; 
and when he meditated on the journey they had taken for his 
sake, he would break out in wondering gratitude, not to be 
checked by Wilmefs simplicity of protest, *0f course she hiid 
come ; she could not help it.' 

The pleasure and comfort she gave him were really serving to 
bear him through. Not only was her touch unusually light, firm, 
dextrous, and soft, but pain from her hand was not like that given 
by any one else, when each dressing was tortured ; an when his 
nerves were strung to an acute misery of sensitiveness, her look 
and touch, her voice and gesture alone were endurable. His first 
powers of being entertained were shown when she talked, or sang, 
not indeed as her brothers could sing, but in a low, sweet, and 
correct voice, that had an infinite charm of soothing that weary 
sickness. He might strive not to be exacting ; but his face showed 
in spite of himself that when she quitted the room the light of his 
life went with her, and there was nothing left him but tedium, 
helplessness, and sore suffering. 

She only did leave him for sleep, which she could usually time 
while he was lulled by the anodyne, and for hurried meals at the 
table d'hote, which collected almost every European in the place. 
Mr. Harewood likewise made a great point of taking her out 
every evening for a sandy walk on the boulevard under the palm 
trees, as a preservative of her health, much to the perplexity of the 
observers. She saw no necessity for leaving John, to plough her 
way in the hot sand ; but it relieved the Librarian's mind, and was 
besides their opportunity for discussing questions not intended for 
their patient's ear. 

Here it was that Mr. Harewood communicated his difficulty. 
He had exchanged one course at the cathedral, but could not 
arrange for the next, and it was imperative that he should be at 
home by the end of the second week in the New Year. John, 
though they dared now to call him better, was still immovable, 
and what could be done ? * Shall I,' said the Librarian, * telegraph 
to William to bring out Lucy or Grace ?' 



THE BARBE BLONDE. 



«83 



* Would that be of any use ?' said Wilmet, thinking only of their 
scatter-brained fecklessness in Lance's case. 

' They have not your faculties of nursing, my dear ; but you 
see, I don't perceive how otherwise to contrive for your remaining.' 

'Mine! I must stay!* exclaimed Wilmet, her little proprieties 
most entirely vanished into oblivion. 

* I knew you would say so. Indeed, I still think nothing else 
gives a hope of pulUng my poor boy through ; but in that case, you 
see, my dear, one of the girls — or their mother — * 

' She would be very uncomfortable, and all for nothing,* said 
Wilmet ; * and William would lose his term. You know,* and 
only then the colour flew into her cheeks, * I could do very well 
alone if you were only to marry us.' 

With such simplicity and straightforwardness was it said, that 
the Librarian had replied, *The very best plan,' before the 
strangeness struck him, and he began to falter, * You have — ^John 
has settled it ?* 

* No,' said Wilmet, crimson, but grave, steady, and earnest, * it 
was only this that made me think of it ; but if it can be managed 
without hurting him, it seems to me the most feasible way.* 

This form of speech of course only proceeded from unfathom- 
able depths of affection and reserve, and it was understood. 

' Dear child,* said Mr. Harewood, * this is the truest kindness 
of all. I will not thank you. You and I are too much one with 
him for that ; but I wish his mother could have known what he 
has won.* 

Soft silent tears were dropping fast under Wilmet*s broad hat. 
Maidenliness would have that revenge ; and she could not speak. 
The question of broaching the subject to John overwhelmed her 
with embarrassment and shamefastness, at the thought of her own 
extraordinary proceeding. Perhaps an impulse might have led 
her into proposing it to him, as she had done to his father, but 
the bare idea of so doing filled her with shame and dismay ; and 
Mr. Harewood, a ceremonious and punctilious gentleman of the 
old school, thought it incumbent on him to lead his son to make 
the proposition, so that it might come at least in appearance from 
the right quarter. 

He had to watch his opportunity, for John was by no means 



Chap. 
XXXI. 



I84 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXI. 



always fit for conversation, and when he was, was not willing to 
dispense with Wilmet's presence \ and it was necessary at last to 
come to, * I want to speak to you before she comes back ;' and 
then, having calmed the restless eye that watched for her, the 
Librarian explained the necessities that called him home : and 
these were fully appreciated by the Major, who owned that it 
had been much to have had him for these six weeks, but there- 
with came a look of alarm, and the exclamation, * Oh, but how 
about her?' 

* She does not think of leaving you. We must consider how to 
arrange for her/ 

*Has not Clement finished his terms? Could not he be 
franked out?' 

* Is there not a simpler way ? John, nothing would make me 
so happy as to leave that dear girl your wife.' 

*But you go before the New Year. Father, it is not to be 
thought of,' he said, with a nervous movement of his right hand, 
which he could now partially use. 

'There is no reason that I should not marry you as you lie 
there. She would consent.' 

' Dearest ! she would consent to anything she thought good 
for me, but the more reason that it cannot be thought of. Look 
at the wreck I am, and the glorious creature she is.' 

* She would not accept that objection.' 

* The more need that I should. Even if this place in my side 
do not, as I expect from day to day, gangrene and make an end 
pf it at once, it can hardly be expected that there will not be some 
contraction or distortion to make an object of me.' 

*Does Chenu tell you this?' asked his father, who had never 
had the chances so plainly set before him. 

* No, Chenu does as well as any one can ; but he has not the 
gift of foresight, and there is no use in taxing his French com- 
plaisance by asking questions that no one can answer,* he 
answered, with quiet calm and patience that almost overcame his 
father. 

* I did not think you were so despondent,' he said. 

* I do not think I am despondent,' was the reply ; * I feel as if 1 
had only to lie here and wait my orders from above. I suppose 



THE BARBE BLONDE, 



I8S 



weakness and sedatives blunt the feelings, for I do not regret all 
that might have been, as I should have thought I should — nay, as 
I did, in one night of fever in India. I can only feel thankfulness 
for intervals like this, and the blessing of having you both with me 
again. Father, I would not have spoken out, but that I thought 
you knew it better than I.' 

* So I do — so I ought, my dear boy ; but I cannot cease to hope 
that your having been so far given back to us is an earnest that 
God will entirely restore you/ 

* That may be yet, but in the uncertainty, it hardly seems right 
to take advantage of my darling's devotion to bring on her so 
terrible a blight in her youth and loveliness. Sending her home a 
widow, Father !' 

*Poor child! There would be little difference in her grief; 
and you should take into consideration that even so, you would 
leave her freed from the necessity of working at that school.' 

* I could do that, without injustice to Will and the girls ; and 
there would be a pension besides,' said John thoughtfully ; and 
his father ventured to add — 

* Indeed, I think if your recovery were as partial as you would 
have me apprehend, it would still only be a matter of time.* 

*She would have her eyes open,' said John; but he thought 
long before he spoke again. * I cannot trust myself to think of it ! 
It is so great a temptation 1 My Wilmet ! my darling ! to waste 
her strong young life on me 1' 

Mr. Harewood said no more. He had experience enough to 
believe such things worked themselves out without interposition ; 
and he would have regarded it as compromising Wilmet's dignity 
and confidence alike to mention her words. He left the room 
when she returned, but nothing resulted. John was restless and 
uncomfortable ; and Wilmet, thinking he had heard all, and 
deemed her forward, was unhappy, and would have become shy, 
if his perturbation had not brought on feverishness ; and that as 
usual inflamed the hurts into such acute pain, that the doctor gave 
a stronger opiate than had been needed of late, but which at first 
only produced distress, moaning, and wandering. They were 
more anxious about him that night and all the next day, than 
they had been for more than a week ; and only towards the second 



Chap. 
XXXI. 



i86 



TITE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
KXXI. 



morning did he become tranquil enough to fall into slumber, which 
lasted so late into the following day, that Wilmet, after being up 
all night, was persuaded to lie down during the noonday heat, 
when she had seen his sleep become more natural, and the dL<(- 
tressful expression relax on his countenance. 

She lay on her bed in a kind of waking doze, sad, anxious, and 
vexed at what she thought the consequence of the proposal into 
which she had been betrayed, feeling desolate, and dreading as 
much as she desired a summons to return. 

Sister Hedwige did not call her till she had had more refreshing 
sleep than perhaps she was aware of ; and then, when she came 
softly into the room, his eyes shone wistfully into hers, and she 
knelt down by him to stroke back that stiff sandy hair of his, and 
cool his brow with her freshly-washed hand. He lifted his as far 
as he could, inviting her to clasp it ; his eyes again looked into 
hers, and a smile came out upon his face. * My father has put a 
very wonderful thing into my head,* he said ; then, as the lovely 
colour deepened on her cheek, * can it be so, Wilmet ?' 

In her own calm way she answered, * Do you not think it will 
be the best way ?' 

* For me? No doubt of that, my dearest, sweetest, best 
darling I' and the feeble force of his fingers somehow caused her 
brow to bend down to his fervent kiss. * You look as lovely as— 
no, ten times lovelier than you did on the stile when you scolded 
me for telling you so. Why don't you now ?' 

* Because I am glad my face is a pleasure to you,* she said, 
glowing, so as to deserve his words, in spite of the eflfects of her 
long vigil. 

* Ah 1 sick people are privileged to be foolish to their heart's 
content But, Wilmet, let us be wise for once. This must not be 
till you have counted the cost* And he repeated what he had 
said to his father of the likelihood of permanent effects being left. 

* You would want me all the more,* she said. 

* And you ?* 

* I should want all the more to be with you.* 

Again he smiled fondly on her. * And more, my love. How 
easily I may be a little worse than yesterday, and then you would 
have to go home alone.' 



THE BARBF. Rl.ONDE, 



187 



* These things are for always,* said Wilmet ; and the tears she 
had resolved against came in crystal veils over her eyes, and it 
was vain to squeeze them out 

' I am conquered,* said John, half quaintly, because he was afraid 
of emotion. * Here is a hand, at least ! My father must manage 
the rest. I can only be the most glad and thankful of men. 
Love, this is worth it all !' as she tenderly smoothed his hair with 
her soft hand in the way he liked so well. 

* And oh ! how nice it will be as you get better !' 

* I can believe I shall, much more than I have hitherto done,' 
returned he. Then after a happy pause, while she still stroked his 
head, and they looked into one another*s faces with hearts swelling 
with unspoken prayers, he added, * But of one thing I must and 
will be sure — of your brother's free consent.* 

She was so sure of it herself, that she only smiled at him ; but 
his was a sort of soldierly punctilio that forbade the profiting by 
her devotion without the sanction of her family, and his father 
supported him in it, and wrote from his dictation, detailing the 
provision which he was making for Wihnet in case of his death 
and begging for a reply by telegraph, since there was not time for 
Mr. Harewood to wait for an answer by post, then signing it, with 
great efibrt, with three crooked initials. 

There could be no doubt as to the answer ; and Wilmet went 
about her preparations witn her own peculiar modest dignity. 
The ' belle Mees * had been a marvel to the French part of the 
community ever since M. le docteur had shrugged his amazement 
at une grahde Anglaise magnifique^ mats blonde etfade, coming out 
instead of a professional garde mcUade^ and then found by ex- 
perience that her hand and head, her nerve and gentleness, 
equalled those of the most skilful sosur with whom he had ever 
been thrown. And when it slowly dawned on him what were her 
relations with the Major, his wonder at English institutions knew 
no bounds. He would have adored her beauty, which grew on 
him as something marvellous, if he had not been a little afraid of 
anything so lofty and so still, and so incapable of airy chatter, as 
he found her at the table d^kbte. She produced on him something 
of the effect of the Pallas of the Parthenon, come across from 
Athens to undertake his patient, or the goddess Neith as| 



Chap. 
XXXI. 



|88 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXI. 



John sometimes called her, when he lay watching her swift 
needle. 

The Deaconess understood her better. Wilmet was much more 
nearly the stately Teutonic maiden than the Grecian divinity ; and 
Sister Hedwige had had her days of romance, and beheld a Velleda 
in the noble, self-possessed, helpful woman, who was equal to any 
of the Fliednei disciples in resource and firmness. The German 
mind, too, appreciated the betrothal tie ; and when Wilmet, who 
had grown very fond of the kindly, homely Schwesterchen^ consulted 
her about sending to Alexandria for the bridal white that must not 
be denied to John's eyes, she wept with joy, promised the willing 
aid of the Deaconess' establishment in procuring all she needed, 
and, moreover, a wreath from the myrtle they nourished in memory 
of home. 

Wilmet's commission was not needed. She found one of the 
big boxes that had been in use as tables and seats opened ; and 
Zadok diving into it under the Major's directions, and turning out 
parcels innumerable, among which appeared a snowy mass of 
India muslin, exquisitely fine and covered with delicate em- 
broidery, 

' There, Wilraet, you know what that is for.' 

And with all the good-will in the world, Madame Spiridione 
volunteered French counsel in the cutting out, and Sister Hedwige 
Gennan needling in the making ; and Zadok, sitting cross-legged 
at the door, proved himself equal to any sewing-machine, and 
worked faster and better than either of the European nationalities, 
as indeed he was the son of a dirjee^ or embroiderer-man, and had 
learnt some of his trade, though educated at a Mission school. 

Dr. Chenu half despised, half envied the convenience of being 
married without the production of the registers of baptism, or the 
consent of either of the mayors or the commanding-officer, and a 
mere telegram, *With all my heart,' from the elder brother; but 
still, Mr. Harewood was obliged to make an expedition to Cairo 
to arrange the formalities for the registry of the marriage, for which 
the Consul promised to send an official. The question was 
whether this gentleman should act as father to the bride, whose 
choice otherwise lay between M. Spiridione, Dr. Chenu, and Zadok 
Krishnu, and who much inclined to the last mentioned; but on 



THE BARBE BLONDE. 



Ic9 



the last day, by the very same train as brought the secretary, an 
unexpected arrival took place. 

The one interest of Rameses was the arrival of the trains — few 
and far between. Mr. Harewood used to go out to count and 
report on the pale faces going westward, and the rosy young ones 
going eastward, and to capture the mail-bags and parcels that 
connected this Egyptian desert with the outward world, " So 
seldom did any one halt, that he was amazed, not only to see the 
secretary, but a slender, black-bearded personage, portmanteau in 
hand, Panama hat on head, looking not indeed Oriental, but so 
un-English that it was startling to be accosted with, * Good morn- 
ing, Mr. Harewood ; I hope your son is still going on well.' 

Then it flashed on the Librarian that this was the Life Guards- 
man who had once ridden over to Minsterham as Alda Under- 
wood's betrothed. 

* Mr. Travis ! This is unexpected ! You don't bring any bad 
news for Miss Underwood, I trust,' he added, taking alarm. 

* Oh no, far from it I came to try to follow up this trail of 
poor Edgar. None of the family can,' he proceeded in a tone of 
apology ; * and as I have time, I can let no possibility go by. — But 
is it true, what they told me at Alexandria — that I am come just 
in time for a wedding ?* 

* Indeed it is, but for a very strange one. I am forced to go 
home when that train returns ; and that sweet girl will not — ^nay, 
cannot leave my poor son. I hope it is not wrong in me to rejoice, 
turn out as it may. They will be delighted to see you.' 

Ferdinand was made very welcome. He was a breath from 
home that made them feel how long they had been exiled. It 
appeared that he had been at Paris, vainly seeking as usual, when 
he had received a telegram from Miss Underwood, /.<?. Marilda, 
and hurrying to England, had heard all that could be gathered 
from Wilmet's letter; and here he was, intending to pursue his 
inquiries in Eg}^pt, and if needful extend his researches to Palestine 
or India, according to whatever clue he might gain. 

Such exertions on the part of a stranger in blood were rather 
surprising ; but Ferdinand seemed to think no explanation need- 
ful, and perhaps his American contempt for space rendered the 
wonder less. At any rate, his coming was a great pleasure. He 



Chap. 
XXXI. 



I90 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXI. 



was almost a brother-in-law to Wilmet, and had belonged to old 
days in her life, and he was intermingled with John's time of 
courtship, at Bexley, so that to both he was like a relation ; and 
Mr. Harewood was ihuch relieved by his promise to remain 
comparatively within reach so long as it was possible that he could 
be of use to Wilmet or her convalescent, as they durst not yet term 
the bridegroom. 

So, as John declared, the wedding was graced by representatives 
of all quarters of the world. It was on African soil, between two 
Europeans, and one spectator came from Asia, another from 
America, to say nothing of the lesser distinctions of France. 
Germany, Greece, Egypt, and Arabia, nor of the mingling of 
Aztec, Spanish, American, and EngUsh blood in the veins of 
Ferdinand Travis. 

Bizarre as were the conditions, the marriage scene was very 
solemn and touching. It had proved impossible to wait for 
Christmas Day, as had been wished; so the 21st of December had 
been chosen, and the time, the cool early morning, before the heat 
of the day, and when light could be let in without glare or scorch- 
ing, such as the noontide even of mid-winter brought 

The room was arrayed as on Sundays, not without thought of 
the first Paschal Feast — kept at this very place and round about it 
— ^and Mr. Harewood had robed himself, and brought out the 
preparations he had made in case he should arrive in time for his 
son's last Communion Feast, but which now served for that of his 
marriage. 

John had so far decorated himself that he had caused M. Spiri- 
dione to trim his hair, and shave all but his habitual red moustache. 
There was not much possibility of alteration in his spare, freckled, 
sunburnt face ; and his condition was chiefly evident in the prone 
motionlessness of his figure on the water bed, covered by a bright 
striped silk quilt, outside which lay one wasted hand, still scarred 
and stiff. He was striving to be calm and passive ; but every now 
and then his fingers twitched, and the muscles of his face quivered 
with strong emotion, so that the doctor, standing behind in militan* 
uniform, with moustaches waxed into standing out like a cat's, was 
anxiously watching him. Krishnu, resplendent in white, red, and 
gold, was on the other side, with an English Prayer-book, and over 



THE BARBE BLONDE. 



I9f 



a chair his mast^'s uniform coat and medals, of which he would not 
be denied the display. There too was the Greek, in his unbecoming 
Frank courier dress, and a few spectators who had crept in at the 
unclosed door for the strange sight of the EngUsh wedding. 

Wilmet's matter-of-fact nature and freedom from self-conscious- 
ness were great auxiliaries to her composure. Living always in 
the work at hand, severance from home did not come prominently 
before her, and still less the strangeness of giving herself, on her 
own responsiblity, in a foreign land, to one who could scarcely 
raise a finger to accept her, and whose life hung on a thread. Of 
the lookers-on she never thought ; she could only recollect that 
she was qualifying herself for the entire charge of John, and tlie 
only eyes she thought of were that one pair of pale greenish-hazel 
ones, but for those she took as much pains as Alda had done to face 
a world of gazers. 

The snowy soft flow and straight folds of the muslin, beneath 
the green wreath on her classical braids of light brown hair, far 
better became the straight outline than the glossy satin, lace 
flutter, and formal wreath, of the London bride. The eyelids cast 
down, the heightened carnation, and trembling lip, rendered her 
grand beauty as modestly tender as it was majestic, when Fer- 
dinand Travis led her forward, followed by the sober-suited 
Deaconess, by Madame Spiridione in a Parisian cap, and her little 
boy in full Greek costume. 

Poor Feman ! he had eagerly undertaken the service he was to 
render to Wilmet, but it must have been a sad reminder of his own 
vanished hopes; and as he led her forward, his slight but fine 
form, noble cast o'f features, and clear dark colouring, so fully 
equalled her in good looks, that he seemed a more fitting match 
for her than the feeble helpless bridegroom, never at his best 
extr^mement beau. 

However, no such thought crossed the minds of the parties 
most closely concerned as Wilmet knelt by the bedside — knelt at 
times when she ought to have stood, or her hand would not have 
been within the reach of the poor weak one over which her long 
soft fingers seemed to exercise cherishing guidance, with that sense 
of power and protection she had been used to wield through life. 
But though her hand was the firmer, and less nervous, it was* a much 



Chap. 
XXXI. 



'92 



THF PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXI. 



Stronger, clearer, steadier voice than could have been looked for^ 
as if manly tenderness overcame all physical prostration, in which 
John Oglandby took Wilmet Ursula to be his wedded wife, rising 
into power and energy, as though even then the impulse of 
guarding, protecting, supporting, love were strengthening hira; 
and Wilmet, on the other hand, quiet and steadfast though she 
was, had her eyes swimming in tears, which now and then stole 
down and dropped unawares on his coverhd, and the tone, 
though not broken or faltering, was low and choked with intensity 
of purpose and of prayer. 'Till death us do part/ which he 
had said so gravely and steadily, came from her with nearly failing 
breath, as though the words almost took away her resolution. 

But the Psalm and the Blessing brought back her calmness, 
and there had never been any trembling in the hand that held her 
husband's; there was only thankful affection in the eyes that 
gazed at him while she still knelt on, and all left the chamber 
except the faithful friend and faithful servant, who were to share 
with the newly-married pair the holiest of feasts. And strangely 
enough, if Wilmet and her home were closely interwoven with 
Ferdinand Travis's first admission to Christian privileges, it had 
been Major Harewood's example and occasional words that had 
first brought the teaching imbibed in a Mission school to bear the 
fruit of true faith and confession thereof in Krishnu. 

So it was a really happy and peaceful wedding-day in that 
strange far-away land ; and John seemed rather the better than 
the worse for the exhilaration of spirits, and the sense of secure 
possession he had gained. He was so much delighted with 
Wilmet's bridal white, that he grumbled if she tried to put on her 
former dresses, and her first personal expense was the keeping up 
her stock — he loved so well to see her moving about or hovering 
over him in her clear pure white folds. 

They were quite sufficient for one another ; and Mr. Harewood 
left them by the next westward train. Ferdinand went to see him 
on board the Alexandrian steamer, and then continued to circalate 
in the haunts of travellers, for the chance of Edgar having joined 
a Nile boat, or being sketching among the tombs of the Thebaid. 
Every now and then he reappeared at Rameses to report how 
some barbe blonde he had been hunting down turned out fiery red; 



rXJE NID r^A VIS, 



'93 



and to communicate his hopes in some other direction. Suez was 
inquired through in vain ; and he could not learn that any one of 
the name or description had gone to India. Indeed, that country 
seemed less likely to attract a man of Edgai^s tastes than the 
picturesque and historical Levant; and his artist powers and 
charm of manner made it not unlikely that he might have been 
engaged to make sketches. 

One hope they had, which died away. The gentleman from 
the Consulate mentioned that a party of vocalists had been giving 
concerts of national melodies to the European population at Cairo 
and Alexandria; and the description reminded Wilmet of last 
year's meteors. Indeed, it proved on inquiry that Stanislas and 
Zoraya Prebel were really among them, and that they had gone 
forward to the East, making a tour of the British dependencies ; 
but when Ferdinand had with difficulty obtained a sight of an old 
programme, and a description of the performers, it was only to 
convince hinself that Edgar could not have been among them. 
There was no name Hke his, and the songs that might have been 
his were sung at the very time when his alibi could be proved at 
Rameses. 



CHAPTER XXXII. 

THE NID D*AVIS. 



• It is called — I forget — ^ la something which sounded 
Like alicampane, but in truth I'm confounded, 
What with fillets of roses and fillets of veal, 
Things garni with lace and things garni with eel, 
One's hair and one's cutlets both en papillate^ 
And a thousand more things I shall ne'er have by rote. 
I can scarce tell the diffrence, at least as to phrase, 
Between beef d la Psyche and curls d la braise ; 
But in short, dear, I'm tricked out quite ,^ la Franfaise.* 

Moore, 

One forenoon, soon after the end of the Christmas vacation, 
Robina Underwood was seated at her desk, working deeply at the 
solution of a quadratic equation ; when from the far-off end of the 



Chap. 
XXXI. 



Chap. 
XXXII. 



VOU 11. 



O 



»94 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap, 
XXXIL 



schoolroom arose that peculiar hushed choked giggle, that no one 
ever ascribed to any cause but some prank of Angela's^ more 
especially on the mornings devoted to her natural enemy, *the 
professor of the exact sciences,' as he called himself; who was in 
fact a stop-gap in the absence of the University man usually 
employed. 

Robina knew that the more concerned she showed herself the 
more madcap tricks were played, and she disturbed herself little 
about the commotion, aware that she should only too soon learn 
the cause, if it were anything out of the common way. So she 
did. In the quarter of an hour of clearance and recreation before 
dinner, plenty of information reached her, couched in boarding- 
school lingua franca, 

* Ah I Rouge Gorge^ vaus ne savez pas ce q^eRe a fcUtJ * Une 
fille delicieuse,^ * Une Aiouette superbe^ taut a fait Ang^liqueP * Et 
M, le professeur! Comme il etait dans un cireT (These phrases 
being chiefly the original coinage of Angela herself.) 

* Mais gu'est ce que dest qtielle a fait f demanded the elder sister, 
with small sympathy with these ecstasies. 

* Leplus eocquis P and with volubility far outrunning composition, 
and resulting in a wonderful compromise of languages, that a new 
book had been produced out of which the class had been required 
to. work what was described as * un somme dans le rlgle detrois tout d 
tort eta travers ; detestable^ horrible^ vilain^ to which a chorus chimed 
in, ^vilain, vilain vilainissimo^ The question was, If twelve reapers 
cut a field in thirty hours, how long would it take sixteen ? As a 
matter of course, all but a few mathematical geniuses at the head 
of the class had multiplied by i6 and divided by 12, and made 
the result 40; but Angela, having wit enough to see that this 
* ti avail pas le sens commun^ instead of trjdng to make out the 
difficulty, had written at the bottom of her slate, what was hastily 
transcribed for Robina's edification — 

Forty, by the best time-keepers. 
Reapers? I should call them sleepers, 
Lazy heapers, idle creepers, 
And their peepers should br. weepers ! 

All who obtained a sight of this stanza became forthwith weepers 



THE NID E^A V/S. 



195 



with suppressed giggle, and there was a stem, ^ Your slate, if you 
please, Miss Angela Underwood.' 

The effects were expressed with all the force the language 
could convey. '// efaif coMtne un -lion enrag^ — il kcumait i ia 
louche — // disait qtiil appelleraU Mile. Fmnimore^ — a fer greater 
climax, but after all he only sentenced her to read the rule aloud 
to the class. No sooner had she touched the book than she 
hashed it from her, * Comtne la poison * — * comme un couleuvre^ 
declaring it to be a shocking one, unfit to touch, so that of course 
the sums came wrong. Most of her audience, all girls under 
thirteen, for she was the arithmetical lag of the school, had no 
notion why the title * Colenso's Arithmetic ' so excited her — ^the 
master had none at all; and while Angela, who was not for 
nothing sister to a church candle or to a gentleman of the press, 
declaimed about heresy and false doctrine, he thought it all idleness 
and wilfulness, and fiilfiUed the threat of a summons to the 
authorities. By them the matter was a little better understood ; 
but the disobedience was unpardonable, even if the testification 
against the author were not merely a veil for dislike to the 
problem, and the sentence had been solitary confinement until 
submission. From this Angela was so far distant, that as the 
young ladies marched in to dinner her voice might be heard 
singing the Ten Little Niggers. 

It was an unlucky time, for the next day was Marilda's twenty- 
fifth birth-day, and she was going to keep it in a way of her own, 
namely, by taking the whole family of children of a struggling 
young doctor, over the Zoological Gardens. It was not a very 
good time of year, and Marilda's first proposition had been the 
pantomime, but the mamma had religious scruples about theatres, 
and it turned out that the Zoo was the subject of their aspirations ; 
so Marilda, securing her two young cousins to help her in the 
care and entertainment of her party, hoped for fine weather. 

From this party of pleasure Angela must of course be debarred, 
unless she yielded ; and her sister was sent to reason with her, but 
this had no better effect than usual. Robina was a thoroughly 
good industrious girl, who neither read the papers nor listened to 
controversy ; she cared most for heresies as possible subjects for 
her examinations in Church history, and had worked problems 

o 2 



Chap. 
XXXIL 



196 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXII 



innumerable out of Colenso. So all she gained was a scolding for 
consenting to the latitudinarianism that caused correctly-done 
sums to make sixteen reapers tardier than twelve ; and the assur- 
ance that no alliu*ement, no imprisonment, should make the young 
martyr consent to truckle to a heretic Angela looked exactly 
like Clement as she spoke, except for an odd twinkle in her eye, 
as if she were quizzing herselfl 

Robina knew herself to be too much wanted to give up the 
expedition, and was sent for by Marilda in time to assist in gimg 
the five children the good dinner fhat was an essential part of the 
programme, and which reminded Robin of Mr. Audle/s picnic 
One little boy, however, seemed bewildered and frightened by the 
good things, and more inclined to cry than to eat ; but he would 
not hear of being left behind, though, when arrived at the Gardens, 
he could give but feeble interest even to the bears, and soon 
fretted and flagged so much that Marilda thankfiilly accepted 
Robin's offer of taking him home in a cab, and waiting for her till 
her rounds with the other children should be finished. 

It turned out that he had had a headache and a ' bone in his throat' 
all the morning, but had kept them a secret of misplaced fortitude; 
and when Robina had taken him home, wrapped up in her cloak, 
trembling, shivering, and moaning, she found the mother with the 
yearling child much in the same condition on her lap ; and she was 
rendering kindly help in putting them to bed (for of course the 
nurse had a holiday), when the father came home, driven in by a 
sore throat and headache of his own, and forced to pronounce, as 
best he could, that they were in for an attack of scarlatina. 

Here was a predicament ! Robina had never had the fever, 
nor had any of her home brothers and sisters in any unimpeachable 
manner. She could not stay where she was, and what would 
either the school or Mrs. Underwood do with her ? After such 
consideration as the Uttle boy allowed her to give, she wrote a 
note of warning to Marilda, to be handed to her at the door, and 
another to be sent on to Miss Fennimore. The note was handed 
to the frightened hurried maid, and duly given. There was a 
moment's pause, and then the children were left in the carriage, 
and Marilda walked into the house. Then tliere took place what 
could only be described as a scrimmage. Marilda was deter* 



THE NID UA VIS. 



197 



mined on carrying all the four home with her, out of the way of 
the infection, but the mother was persuaded that they must have 
it already, and would not part with them. If they were ill in 
another house she would not be able to go to them, and the thought 
distracted her. The father was appealed to, and between the 
same dread of separation and scruples about carrying infection 
&rther, he gave sentence the same way, and Marilda was most 
unwillingly defeated. 

She could only take away Robina ; and Robina submitted 
pretty quietly to her decision that her quarantine must be spent at 
Kensington Palace Gardens. In the first place, Marilda protested 
that she had had *it;' and though * it ' turned out only to have 
been a rash, and it was nearly certain that Mrs. Underwood 
would be in despair, yet Robin really knew not where else to go, 
and Marilda was quite as old as the constituted authorities at 
home. All Robin could insist on was on remaining in the 
carriage till Mrs. Underwood had heard the state of the case ; but 
considering the rule that Marilda exercised, this precaution was of 
little use. In five minutes she was called upstairs, a note was 
sent to Brompton, and shie had to make up her mind to a fiiU 
fortnight of quarantine — and what was worse, of lack of appliances 
for preparing for the Cambridge examination, her great subject of 
ambition. 

Neither Mrs. Underwood nor Marilda could suppose that it was 
not a treat and consolation to a schoolgirl to get a holiday ; they 
were as kind as possible, but oh ! the dullness of the place 1 It 
was much more dull than in Cherry's visits, for she had her own 
study and her own purpose, and Alda and Edgar enlivened the 
house; but now Marilda had no pursuits save business and 
charity, and was out many hours of the day, there was hardly a 
book to be found, and Mrs. Underwood expected her to sit in the 
drawing-room and do fancy-work. Meantime she was losing 
precious time, her chances of marks and prizes at Brompton were 
vanishing, to say nothing of her preparation for the Cambridge 
examination, on which her whole start in life might depend. 

The doctor's family were all very ill ; but she could not think 
nearly so much about them as of the music she tried to practise, 
and the equations she set herself, while she reckoned the extra 



Chap. 
XXXIl. 



198 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXH. 



work by which she could make up for lost time. Alas ! on the 
very last day of this weary fortnight, conscience constrained her 
to mention an ominous harshness of throat; and by the evening 
she was wishing for nothing but that Wilmet were not in Egypt 

However, Marilda proved herself far superior as a nurse to 
what she was as a companion. She would not be kept out of ha: 
cousin's room, and with Cherry's old friend, Mrs. Stokes, took 
such good and enlightened care, that the infection did not spread, 
and Robina, though ill enough to be tolerably franked for life, was 
in due time recovering so favourably as to be very miserable and 
wretched about everything, from the Cambridge examination to 
her own ingratitude. She never had felt so like Cherry in her 
life. 

It was hard to say which was worst, her banishment from school 
or from home, or the doleful idea presented to her by that kind 
promise of canying her to be aired at Brighton for six weeks ! It 
was the loss of the whole term, and all the prizes she had set her 
heart upon, nor was there any one to sympathise with her, as she 
turned her head away and hoped no one would find out the tears 
in her eyes. 

It was just as it had been with Lance, she thought ; prevented 
from sharing in the competition that might have won him success 
in Hfe. And how sweetly and brightly Lance had borne it ; but 
then he had never reckoned on the success she had hoped for, 
and besides, her nature had not the surface insoiuiance that had 
helped him. She had more industry, more ambition, more fixity 
of purpose, and the disappointment was proportionably severer. 

Poor child 1 she lay on the sofa, as Mrs. Underwood supposed, 
fast asleep, but really trying to work out in her brain puzzling 
questions, why it was good to be disappointed when one does 
one's best, why the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the 
strong, trying to accept her failure as wholesome mortification to 
ambition, recalling * Under Wode under Rode ;' but rebelliously 
feeling that this did not comfort her greatly in the very imnecessary 
picture her fency proceeded to draw of herself, with attainments 
fit for nothing but a nursery governess or school drudge, or a 
companion to some one duller still than Mrs. Underwood, mag- 
nanimously releasing William Harewood from all ties to so inferior 



THE NID D'A VIS, 



199 



A being, and proceeding to die of a broken heart, and to shed a 
few tears over her own grave j or maybe the still more melancholy 
conviction, that there were no ties at all that he would or ought to 
remember. 

A postman's knock made her start, and Mrs. Underwood lament 
that she had been awakened. Presently she was sitting up, 
receiving a long, narrow, green, thin letter, at which she looked 
with exultation and delight all over the visage lately so dolefuL 
* Mrs. Underwood, it is from John himself — dear John !' was 
the cry, as her eyes lighted on the address; and her pleasure 
amounted to rapture as she read the closely-written sheets, in that 
clear strong neat handwriting that had hitherto always been 
Wilmet's monopoly. 

Alexandria, March 20th. 

My Dear Robina, 

I hope this may find you as it leaves me at present, a thankful 
convalescent, and able to think of undertaking a journey with more motive 
force in your own person than I can yet boast. My good little French doctor 
has unlimited faith in the healing virtues of the Pyrenean baths, he being 
Gascon bom, and has even volunteered to help us on our way thither when 
going home for his holiday — a chance too good to be lost Malta must be our 
first stage ; and if, as I am told to hope, I can get my sick leave extended, 
after being sat upon by the doctors there, we shall go on to Bagn^res, where 
we hope to arrive about the last week in April. We think you had better 
meet us there. Miss Underwood will see about arranging an escort for you ; 
Wihnet is writing to her about it. She also desires that you will rig yourself 
oat afresh, bringing nothing you have used while laid up ; and you had better 
likewise provide the stock of books the Cambridge dons advise, as we shall be 
very quiet and stationary for some time, and I will gladly do my best to help 
you, unless modem lights have gone quite beyond the capacities of the R. £• 

You see by my date that we have made our first move. Chenu was anxious 
to get us away from Rameses before the Egyptian plagues should have become 
rampant, and after Wilmet had found a scorpion curled amiably up on my 
pillow, she was ready for an immediate start So, amid the shrieks of the 
Arabs and tears of the entire establishment, I was carried by Travis and 
Krishnu to the station, and deposited in a horse-box, that I fancy occasionally 
transports a harem, our host weeping and kissing Wilmet's hands to the last 
moment Poor people I they treated us with uniform kindness. If you can 
make inquiries about the price of a dinner-service, write me the result ; it is a 
sort of testimonial that might be convenient as well as appropriate. 

Here, in this great hotel, we are no longer No. i, but simple units, and find 
it so much less enlivening, and more common-place, that we even r^etkhe 
Aightly laughter of the hyenas. I want Wilmet to join a party who ai« going 



Chap. 
XXXIL 



V 



20O 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXIL 



to pay their respects to the Sphinx ; but she will not hear of it, even under the 
care of Feman Travis, who has grown quite familiar with that venerable 
f^Tii mftl, He is an admirable squire for her (Mrs. H^— , I mean, not 
Mrs. S— ,) at the table <Vh6U and is altogether as excellent a fellow as ever 
lived. I am much struck with the ripening he has undergone since we were 
together at Bexley, and his deeply conscientious views of his very trying and 
difficult position. He means to see us off for Malta, and then to make his Way 
to Jerusalem for Easter, for the chance that the throng may attract poor 
Edgar. Never was search more indefatigable. ^ Wilmet sends her love, but 
does not write, as she has letters in hand to Felix and to Miss Underwood. 
Hoping to see your face as round as ever before a month is over, 

Your affectionate brother, 

J. O. Harewood. 

Write to us at Malta whether you can come, and we will either write or 
telegraph to you when to start 

On a separate page were directions for the journey ; and a 
cheque was enclosed, the first Robina had ever received, providing 
amply for journey, outfit, and books. 

An hour before, the journey to Brighton had seemed a terrific 
fatigue. Now a journey to the Pyrenees was only delicious! 
Her happmess and gratitude were unspeakable. This was not 
banishment — ^this was not loss of time — this was perfection ! 

Wilmef s letter to Marilda, which came at the same time, was a 
far more anxious one. She described her husband as certainly 
better, but still with three unconquerable wounds, on shoulder, 
hip, and knee, that kept him helpless and prevented him fix>m 
regaining strength. He was always a bad sailor, and she ex- 
tremely dreaded the vo)rage ; yet it was impossible to remain in 
the Egyptian climate, for already the heat was fearfiilly exhausting, 
and this long, cheerful, well-written letter must not deceive those 
at home, for it had been written in the cool of the evening, when 
he always revived, but for the greater part of the day he could 
scarcely speak or look ; and she cautioned Robina against reck- 
oning too much on the Pyrenean journey, since if the military 
authorities would not give John his leave without his presenting 
himself in England, they must try some sea-side place there. 
John's hopefiil plans always ran on so fast whenever he was feeling 
a little better. However, Wilmet herself was very eager to have 
Robina, who she thought would be a great amusement and occupa- 
tion to him, and was only puzzled about the escort, since Felix 



THE NID jyA VIS, 



aoi 



could hardly spare the time, and Clement was in the final agony of 
preparing for his degree. 

This however was settled by Marilda's oflfering her own maid, 
who was a practised traveller; and not long after arrived the final 
intimation. All had been made right at Malta ; and Robina, who 
had by this time had leisure to change her skin, and gather her 
strength, was to start at once for Bagnbres. 

She was not allowed any parting with Angela, or any of those 
at home. It was safer otherwise, and not worth the risk, she was 
told, and there was nothing to do but submit; and very much 
alone in the world did she feel when she stood on the deck of the 
Folkestone boat, with the black-silk maid as her only protector. 
It was a great plunge into the vast unknown for one solitary 
litde schoolgirl ! 

Behold! A hand was held out to her, a merry pair of 
yellowish green eyes twinkled, a wide mouth smiled, a greeting 
was in her ears : ' Thafs right, Bobbie ! I thought you'd be for 
this boat' 

'Willie I O Willie ! You are crossing? How nice ! But you 
shouldn't touch me.' 

'Bosh I I had it long ago 1 Are you weU and jolly Y 

* Quite well, thank yoiu You are really coming ?* 

*Ay, I thought I'd run over to see Jack, and how Wilmet 
figures as a bride ; and it is a good speculation to get you to do 
all the French.' 

' If I can ; but here's Marilda's maid, a perfect traveller's book 
of dialogues. Mrs. Purle — ^here is Major Harewood's brother, who 
is going the same way.' 

A gentleman was not an unwelcome sight to Mrs. Purle, who 
was used to depend on couriers, and who entreated him at 
once to enforce attention to certain luggage about which she was 
distressed. 

And to Robina, he was simply the most delightfiil sight in the 
world. After six weeks of the flatness and tedium of those good 
ladies in Kensington Palace Gardens, a little youthful brightness, 
fresh too from home, would have been like the pure sea wind after 
dull London air, even if it had not been, of all people, Willie, Willie 
Harewood himself, timing his journey on purpose to escort her ! 



Chap. 
XXXII. 



202 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXII. 



True, there were always two sets of feelings going on within her; 
one when she wa^ actually concerned with or about him, when the 
common-place aspect overcame the remembrance of that evening 
by the river-side, and left only a pleasant companionship of long 
standing, with the freedom of famOy connection and acknowledged 
preference ; the other, when he was out of sight and hearing, and 
was the standing romance of her life. 

It was not a wholly untroubled romance, for she was not certain 
of her duty. Their promise had been exchanged when they were 
such children, that it would be ridiculous to mention it, and it 
might be equally absurd to dwell on it; yet her mind could not help 
attaching weight to it, and questioning whether her secresy might 
not be a fault Yet it would be unfair, as well as absurd, to avow 
seriously nonsense three years old, and without any further advance 
on his part. Without any ? That was the question that recurred 
over and over again to the poor little heart, whenever romance got 
the upper hand, the heart that w^wZ-oT one moment yearn, at another 
fail, at another bound ! It was avowed that Willie was very fond of 
her, and his sisters made that fondness one of their standing jokes ; 
but when Robin remembered the enforced reticence with regard to 
Wilmet, that was no good sign, and she could never discover 
whether he remembered the sixpence they had not broken. It was 
no desirable state of suspense, this consequence of having innocently 
listened to premature playing at lovers' vows ; and though good 
sense and modesty might mitigate the evil, that very conscien- 
tiousness gave her the more to endure. 

However, the pain was all in private, and private moments were 
few, and encroached on by sleepiness and struggles to write letters. 
They went on too fast for more than fleeting views from the train , 
only at Paris, after the table d^hdte Willie was urgent for a stroll in 
the gas-lit streets, and on Robina's demur, appealed to Mrs. Purle*s 
good-nature, and brought her out, tired as she was, but enjoying the 
delight of the two happy young things. 

It was too late for sight-seeing, but little recked they ; the wonder 
of the city, then so great and gay, was quite enough for them ; the 
long illuminated arcades of the streets, the masses of trees in their 
young foliage in the Tuileries gardens, the unaccustomed sounds- 
thundering omnibus, rushing cabriolet, neighing, shrieking horses, 



THE NID jyA VIS, 



203 



and high-pitched clamour of tongues, filled them with exhilarating 
amusement Then the people 1 Maid-servants in quaint white 
caps, stately sergmts-de-ville^ soldiers marching to change guard, 
with clanging bands, knots of talkers gesticulating, parties sitting 
out on the pavement at the cafes — all was so new and queer, and it 
was so wonderful to be there with only Will, that Robina could 
hardly believe she was herself I 

Above all, the shop windows 1 How they lingered and admired, 
like the firank-hearted children they were ! Everything looked so 
enchanting on those slopes — photograph, confectionery, porcelain, 
millinery, or jewellery. Oh ! the raree-show those trinket-shops in 
the Rue Rivoli were to them, as they gazed at the wonderful de- 
vices — those earrings and brooches, as flies, as beetles, as fishes, 
shrimps, and acrobats. At last they came on a set where the ear- 
rings represented a little silver bird hovering, and the brooch a gold 
wicker nest with three pearl eggs, and the same birds standing 
over it, and Robina's cry of admiration was instantly repUed to 
with — 

* You must have those, I vow ! * 

* Nonsense ! they must be frightfully dear/ 

' I don't care ; you are the bird that must have that nest.' 

* But it is eamngs ! ' 
*Welir 

* I don't wear earrings.' 

*Thafs no reason you never should.' 

* No, no ; Wilmet would not like it, and Mamma never did. It 
is making holes in oneself to wear useless ornaments in,* said Robin, 
hunying out her remonstrance without choice of words. 

•And the other thing, with the two birds — is that for your 
nose?' 

* No, a brooch.' 

* You wear brooches. You have on a thing like a calf s eye.' 

' My poor onyx — for shame ! ' said Robina, not confessing that 
it was her sole possession in that line. 

* Then you shall have those two cockyolly birds.' 

* No, indeed. It is a set, and they won't break it' 

* Then Grace shall have one bird, and Lucy the other.' 
'Each one earring — ^you ridiculous boy ! ' 



Chaf 
XXXII. 



204 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXIL 



' And wear them by turns ! Come in, and ask the price 
prettily/ 

* No, I sha'n't' 

* I thought you were to speak French for me ? ' 

* Only when I approve/ 

* Then here goes ! * 

And Robin, who was afraid to stand in the street without him, 
heard him asking, * Quoi est leprix de ce nidd*avisT 

Fortunately, or unfortunately, it was a bi-lingual shop, and the 
purchase was conducted in English; the brooch was separated from 
the earrings, the change made right, and the little box containing 
the treasure tlirustupon Robina,who could only twit the donor with 
his niddavis. 

* Avis not the French for a bird ? If it is not, it ought to be. I 
thought one only had to speak Latin through one's nose and bite off 
the end.' 

' General rules are dangerous of application in particular instances. 
There's the first hatch for you out of your nest of advice.* 

* If you hatch advice for me, I'U take it' 

'Thafs a pretty considerable engagement!' said Robina, 
lightly. 

* Your eggs of advice ain't rotten like some folk's.' 

* They won't be pearls Hke these ! * 

* How do you know ? My eyes, Bob, there goes a regular old 
Dominican, looking just as if he was got up for a charade. What 
a place' this is, to be sure 1 and how hard to fancy that it is but a 
few hours from home after all ! ' 

The gift and the few words after it had brought Robina's outer 
and inner worlds unusually near together ; and when she opened 
her little box in her room, she caught herself kissing the silver birds 
in a strange thrill of pleasure and yet of doubt whether Wihnet 
would think she ought to have accepted it 

The long, long journey ended in mazy sleep through the diligence 
part of the transit, all in the dark, but with a dim consciousness of 
wheels, voices, and bumps. It seemed quite the middle of the 
night, and far too troublesome to move, when at length she was ex- 
tracted by WilHam rather than by her own volition, and something 
in a white turban appeared before her dazzled eyes in the lamplight, 



THE NID D'A VIS, 



ao5 



as stumbling with weariness, she was supported and guided by her 
companion's arm, and reviving in the cool night air, heard that ' it 
vas but a few steps, and the Mem Sahib was waiting.' 

Then a great door opened, and showed a flood of light inter- 
cepted by a tall figure, and then Robina found a pair of soft arms 
round her, and nestUng close to a well-known bosom, felt the in- 
finite relief of being off her own mind and with her who had ever 
been the very core of home 1 

* My Robin, my Robin ! Is she quite well ? Oh, this is nice 1 
And Willie — ^ giving her sisterly kiss. ' Yes, we had your letter, 
we were so glad Mrs. Purle, how are you ? thank you for 
bringmg her ! There's some tea ready — Krishnu will show you.' 

And then they were in the sitting-room, with its bright lamp 
and blazing wood fire, and thorough English tea, and Wilmet in 
muslin and blue ribbons, as they had never seen her but on rare 
gala days. 

* How's John ?' began William, rather blank at missing him. 

* Much better — so much better, but I told him not to think of 
seeing you to-night He has been in bed more than two hours. 
And oh, my Bobbie, you ought to be there too I* 

* Yes, she's tired to death,' said Will ; * we have been going since 
eight last night' 

She really was too much tired to speak or eat, and passively 
submitted, scarcely conscious where she was — nay, at some 
moments thinking herself in the old nursery in St Oswald's 
Buildings, in the comfort of being undressed, cossetted, and put to 
bed by the hands most natural to her since infancy. After a time of 
weariness too great for right sleep, and of a strange confiision about 
confessions to Wilmet, she at length lost the feverish element of 
over-fatigue, and slept soundly till she opened her eyes to realise a 
little festooned bed in an alcove, white curtains over the windows, 
strange new street-cries outside, and within, her own box, a sofa, a 
table, a chair, and a fine clock, which could not be going, for it 
pointed to half-past ten 1 

As she was sitting up and looking in vain for some means of 
washing, the door gently opened, and that dear motherly face 
looked in. * Awake at last, my poor little tired bird ?' 

* Wilmet, is it really so late ?* 



Chap. 
XXXII. 



206 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXII. 



. * Of course ! never mind. Willie is just as bad ; there are his 
boots outside his door still. There, drink this coffee before you 
dress. Yes, you want it ; you could take nothing last night Let 
me look at you ; are you quite rested, and fit to get up ?* 

* Oh yes !' energetically ; * if only I saw how to wash !' 
Wilmet laughed, and opened a cupboard-door, displaying the 

requisites^ even including a tub, which she had found and pur- 
chased individually. After the ablutions she could judge of her 
little sister better, and thought the cheeks not greatly wanting in 
their roundness, or healthful freshness; but all the brown hair 
had b6en cropped, and the short wavy curls added to the childish 
contour. It was a prim little schoolgirl figure that stood there in 
a gray carmelite dress, and black silk apron« 

* My dear, have not you a bow or bit of ribbon ? John likes 
colour.' 

* Only a blue ribbon for Sunday.' 

In a moment Wilmet had hurried to her own room, a rose- 
coloured snood was round the brown hair, and a little Maltese 
cross hung by another pair of rosy streamers round her neck. 

* And a brooch, my dear. Haven't you one — what's in this 
box?' 

* O Wilmet, I wanted to ask you about it Willie would buy it 
for me at Paris !' 

* How pretty ! There, that will do nicely. Are you ready? 
John is quite eager for you, now he is at his best* 

So Robin, who meant to have put her question in a very 
diflferent form, was hurried away, nid (Tavis and all, and the next 
moment found herself in the sitting-room, where on a couch near 
the fire, but commanding a view from the window, lay, half sitting, 
her new brother, holding out both hands to draw her to receive his 
kiss of welcome, * Well, Robin, quite recruited after the scarlet 
enemy ? So you were dead beat yesterday !' 

* O John, I did not mean to be so late T 

* You are beforehand with that lazy brother of mine, who tacked 
himself to your skirts. Just in time for dkjei^ner^ a thing always 
going on here. Is the young Sahib awake, Zadok ?' as the white 
figure with a brown face entered to lay the cloth, but it was at 
once followed by the young gentleman, exclaiming, 'Good 



THE NID D'A VIS, 



2xyj 



morning, Wilmet ; I beg your pardon — I*d no notion of the time.' 
Then coming to a sudden standstill, * Holloa, Jack I* 

* Holloa, Bill,' replied John, imitating the tone, with a smile. 
'How's my father?' 

« As — ^as usual 1 But, Jack, old fellow, how — how small you 
look?' said Will, shocked and overcome into small choice of 
words, as he stood with a frown of dismay on his face. 

* Boiled to rags, like the policeman in the Area Belle,* said 
John, tr)dng to laugh him into reassurance. *Did you expect 
the process to have the same effect as on a pudding ?' 

* But my father said he was not altered !' said William, turning 
to his sister-in-law. 

' He has gone through a good deal since then,' said Wilmet, 
wistfully. * And the sun-burning has had time to fade. If you 
had seen him before we came into this mountain air, you would 
only wonder at him now.' 

* Besides,' added John, * you are grateful to a man fop looking 
anyhow at all when he Hes like a mummy. And now he is dressed 
like his fellow-creatures, you compare him with them.' 

' And that is only since we have been here,* said Wilmet, 
proudly. 

* And how are they all at home. Bill ? How's the mother ?' 

^ Oh, all right ; and she kindly insisted on my taking out some 
Liebnitz to you in case you couldn't get anything in these French 
places. She fairly took me in this time, and I suggested it was 
rather tough for you under present circumstances, but she said 
that couldn't be, for she got it warranted in tins at the com- 
petitive.' 

* Dear mother !' said John, as they all shrieked with amuse- 
ment ; * I don't think Wilmet will be at all ungrateful to her. I 
am afraid the commissariat is a weight on her mind. Now, what 
do you think of her looks?' demanded John, rather anxiously. 

* Well, she is always — ^just Wihnet — but she is thinner, and not 
so pink as she used to be,' said the uncompHmentary Will. 

* Of course,' said Wilmet, as John's eyes turned on her the 
more solicitously, * after the heat of those last weeks in Egypt ; and 
Malta was almost worse, except that tiiere was not the constant 
warfare with the flies that just kept one aUve.' 



Chap. 
XXXIX. 



2o8 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXII. 



' It is very wann here,' said Ro^ina, who had left London in an 
east wind. 

* We find it cold up here in the mountains,' said Wilmet, who 
wore a velvet jacket iand thick glossy striped blue and brown silk. 
* Dr. Chenu warned us to prepare.' 

* Yes/ said John, * so I sent her out at MarseDles to fit herself 
out, and what does she come home with but one lugubrious black 
silk, which she tried to persuade me was .the correct thing T 

* And then,' said Wilmet, * the next thing I found was his bed 
spread all over with patterns, and it was all I could do not to have 
enough to clothe all Bexley. I was obliged to get a new box as it 
is, and luggage is fiightfiilly expensive on these French lines.' 

Willie and Robin, though both in some awe of Wilmet, could 
not help smiHng at a speech so exactly like herself, as to remind 
them of Lance's mischievous averment that she must have married 
John because it was so much cheaper than sending any one out 

Those four happy tongues, how much they had to tell and to 
ask, about the two journeys and the two homes, all mixed up 
together. Bill's tidings being the most recent, and all that was 
known by letter becoming much more real and interesting by word 
of mouth. 

Cherry? Yes, Cherry was very well, and had no end of a 
picture for the exhibition, of the maiden spinning for her lover's 
ransom — she had studied the maiden firom one of Ernest Lamb's 
sisters, but she had put in exactly her own eyes, poor Cherry! 
There was a picture of Stella and Theodore upstairs for Wilmet 
Lance had played his vioHn to keep Theodore happy while sitting. 
Oh, and had they heard that Lance had really been asked to take 
the organist's place ? The former one had sent in his resignation, 
and after the half-year that Lance and the choir had worked 
together, there was a general desire that he should take the post 
Mr. Bevan had even written to request it, at £^^o a year instead 
of £^o. 

* What a shame !' broke out Wilmet * I hope Felix did not 
consent ! I had much rather he was not paid at all' 

* That was what Lance wanted, of course,' said Robina ; ' he 
wished to give his music freely, as he does not give up the 
business 



THE NID HA VIS, 



209 



* But Felix said he had no desire to give either jQio or JQ^o a xxxfi. 
year to my Lady, and that he did not accept her as the Church/ | — 
said Will ; * and Miles — old Miles was more rabid than ever he j 
was at the 2k)ra)ra ; and Lance was in a state bordering on dis- 1 
traction for fear it should go off altogether, and he should undergo 
torture from a fifty-pounder every Sunday of his life, but my Lady 
gave in ; and Lance reconciles his conscience to the lucre of gain 
by getting a lesson from Miles once a week, and raising the pay of 
the biggest of those interminable little Lightfoots.' I 

' George, the intelligent one, that Cherry used to have up to j 
teach,' interposed Robin, * so that there's another in the shop to , 
make up for any time Lance spends away from it And when j 
Feman's new organ comes, whenever it is finished, it will be such 
a delight' 

* I hate to see him all the same,' muttered Will, with a frown ; 
but the observation was unheeded, as Robina eagerly told how 
Theodore had one day gone in with his brothers to the choir 
practice, where he had been in such a state of bliss, and kept his 
lieder ohne worter so true that they had taken him regularly first 
thither and then to church, where he accompanied like a little 
musical instrument, and at last Mr, Flowerdew could not resist 
enrolling him in the choir, where, seated in front of Felix, and 
^tith *one of the interminable Lightfoots' as guardian by his side, 
he was safe from molestation from any teasing freak of the other ; 
boys, and however much he might comprehend, there was no 
doubt that his felicity was perfect 

* It has really altered him,* said Will * I did not know him 
when I saw him in his surplice ; and indeed he seems to have 
got a stimulus altogether, between that and Scamp.' 

* Scamp I' 

* What, the/ve not ventured to tell you that they've set up a dog !' 
and Bill and Bobbie both fell into convulsions, in which the Major 
joined more moderately, at his lady's demure face of astonishment 

* I suppose it was forgotten, when all the wedding letters were 
being written,' said Robina, rather guiltily. 

' And when the mice no longer expected the cat,' said John. 

* No, indeed it wasn't that !' pleaded Robina. * Lance couldn't 
help it' 

VOL. II. p 



2IO 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXII. 



' It was a votive offering/ said Will ' Lance has never ceased 
to be little Dick Graeme's demi-god ever since he licked him 
"within an inch of his life for bolting Shapcote's plums. You know 
those dogs of Mr. Graeme's, Jack — beautiful black retrievers with 
tan legs and muzzles. One belonged to Dick, and no sooner has 
she a litter of puppies than he must bring up one for Lance, without 
a hint to him or any one else, till one day he coolly marched in 
with his dog at his heels.' 

' His father was driving in,' said Robin, * and had no notion the 
boy had not settied it alL We were just sitting down to dinner 
when the bell rang, and there was a wonderful floundering on the 
stairs, and in tumbled Master Dick with this great black beast 
padding and sprawling after him. Then, while Cherry stood 
clutching Lord Gerald in one hand and the back of her chair in 
the other, much as if it had been a wolf, we heard the pleasing 
intelUgence ; " He is for you, Underwood ; he is Sal's finest pup, 
and I brought him up on purpose for you.'" 

* But Lance was not forced to keep him.' 

* We could not turn him out neck and crop ; and you can 
imagine the rapture of Angel and Bear, and Lance wished it so 
much ! Even Cherry did not like to vex the boy, and when she 
began to talk of Fehx and the yard, I thought how it would end. 

] But when she said it would frighten Theodore into fits, the next 
thing we saw was the two rolling on the floor together, Tedo's 
arms round the dog, and Scamp Ucking his face all over, and all 
that satiny puppy hair on the long ears mixed up with Baby's flax. 
Cherry made a sketch on the spot, and there was no notion ot 
sending him away after that I don't know whether Tedo cannot 
do without Stella better than without Scamp, for they seem to 
understand one another better, and he is not afraid to go into the 
garden alone with Scamp, though he never would with Stella. It 
is quite new life to him.' 

* As good a thing as could have been devised for him,' said 
John, 

* Poor dear Tedo ! yes, I am glad for his sake,' said Wilmetj 
only I hope they don't have him in the house.' 

* Don't they,' said Willie, mischievously ; ' didn't I nearly break 
j my neck over the black back of him last Monday !' 



THE NID D'A VIS. 



211 



* But Lance always combs him/ eagerly inteq)Osed Robina. 

' Yes, Lance is as dainty about brushing and curry-combing him 
as he is over his own lark's crest when the ladies are coming for 
their magazines. Oh, Scamp is a great institution; he walks 
Cherry out every day, and even Felix can't resist if he makes a set 
at him.' 

* Capital ! What, not reconciled yet, Wilmet ?* 

'Not to having him in the house. I am thinking of Mrs. 

Froggatt's carpet' 
' Ours, you mean,' said Robin ; ' besides, it is drugget' 
' And past praying for,' wickedly added Bill, 'since Bernard and 

I made a general average of the inkstand and Cherry's painting 

things at one swoop.' 

* Abdicated sovereigns should close their ears,' said John, * No 
doubt Constantius' doings much disturbed Diocletian over his 
cabbages.' 

* I hope I was not such a tyrant,' said Wilmet ; who, though 
used to raillery frpm her brothers, had yet to learn to take it from 
her husband. 

' At least I hope you have retired on a cabbage, men chcuy he 
said. 

She smiled, but turned the subject by explaining that their 
excellent doctor had not only secured these comfortable rooms on 
the ground floor till the season should be advanced enough to 
remove to Barfeges, but had recommended them to a confrkre^ and 
had found, what John added was more difficult to get than the 
savant, a pony and a wheeled chair, in which he was going out at 
two o'clock. ' And it is past twelve now,' said Wilmet \ * and you 
ought to be resting.' 

' 111 go and look about, and come back in time to put you in 
your chair. Jack,' said William. * Come along, Robin.* 

* If you are not tired, Robin,' said Wilipet, * you had better go 
out We can only keep along the road ; and John ought to get 
some sleep before he goes out' 

* The cabbage is well drilled, you see,' said John ; but he really 
did look weaiy, and Robina was glad enough of the positive com- 
mand 

Her sister had clearly no notion but of turning the children out 

P 2 



Chap. 

XXXIII. 



212 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXII. 



to play whenever they were in the way ; and for the present that 
was quite enough to send her down, forgetting eyeiything but the 
charm of the walk and the companionship. 

The fresh sunny spring-tide and mountain air would have been 
exhilaration and ecstasy in themselves, such as she had never 
known, even if there had been nothing to see, and no one she 
cared for at her side. And now the ravine, the pine-dad slopes, 
the scattered cottages, the rocks, the foliage, the blossoming trees, 
the picturesque figures, above all, the veritable mountain summits, 
still glorified by their winter snows, cutting the clear blue sky, 
filled her with a sense of beauty and wonder, enlarging her whole 
spirit with anew incomprehensible sensation; and William was 
altogether lifted out of the hair-brained rattle-pate. His frank- 
hearted nature had no comer for the afifectation of sneering at his 
own loftiest emotions. It was his first mountain, and he was 
perfectly overcome by it ; he raised his hat with an instinct of 
reverence, and the tears stood in his eyes as he kept silence at 
first, and then murmured, * One seems nearer the Great White 
Throne !' 

* I never guessed it was — oh — that there was such a soul in it !* 
responded Robina, in low awe-struck accents, as if in a church. 

* No words ever gave one a moment's sense of it,* he answered ; 
and then they began revelling in individual admiration, climbing 
and wandering in oblivion of all but the light and shade, the 
shimmering torrent and sheer rock, the cloud-like hills and deep 
clefts, till far on the road below they spied a queer high-wheeled 
pony-chair, a lady in a broad-leafed flat-crowned hat walking 
beside it, and the Hindoo's unmistakable scarlet and white in 
attendance. 

* Bless me!' cried Will, leaping up, * didn't I mean to have 
carried poor Jack to his chair ! Time is nothing in these places !' 

*Can we get down to them ?* 

* Of course!' Charge, Chester, charge! Give me your hand, 
and I'll get you down. I say, Robina,' in a lower, graver tone, 
* I'm glad we've had this sight together ! We'll never forget it ! ' 

Whatever sentiment might be conveyed in these words ended in 
as English a view-halloo as ever startled the Pyrenees, causing the 
party below to look up and wave gestures deprecatory of the 



THE NID D'A VIS. 



213 



headlong descent, which, nevertheless, was effected without the 
fracture of limbs, though Robin arrived breathless, and panting 
enough by no means to disdain a seat by John's side. He was 
looking as happy as a king, in the enjoyment of the mountain air 
and scenery after his long confinement on the parching Egyptian 
sands ; but it was silent delight, and when Robina had recovered 
the physical agitation of her descent, she had time to feel the 
heart-swelling at those words, and the afterthought whether it was 
a stolen pleasure unless Wilmet ftiUy knew how sweet it was to be 
sent out with Will. 

But speaking to Wilmet was no easy matter. She was engrossed 
with her husband, and never willingly quitted him for a moment, 
thinking of nothing but as it regarded him, and viewing his 
brother and her sister more as means for his entertainment than 
in their substantial aspect She did indeed follow Robin to her 
room that evening, to satisfy herself about the child's health ; but 
just as the desperate struggle to begin on this most awkward of 
subjects was being made, she fancied she heard John's call, and 
was gone. 

Next morning, not only were the two sent out together while 
the doctor made his ciU, but William communicated to her the 
verses that he had sat up late and risen early to relieve his mind 
of, beginning with— 

* Can we ever forget this day ?' 

To be sure it was all- mountain, and would have suited Lance 
equally well with herself. It was shown to John as a * March 
Hare ' contribution, and was destined to the Pursuivant ; but did it 
not begin with we^ and had she not had the first-fruits? The 
consciousness grew more precious, the conscientiousness more 
distressed, till it drove her, in her truth and honesty, to the 
desperate measure of so decidedly begging for a private interview, 
that Wilmet came at once, supposing her unwell. 

* Oh no, no, but — but I wanted to make sure of its being right. 
All this about WiUie.* 

' About Willie? He is in no scrape, I hope?* 

* Oh no ; only I could not be comfortable without your knowing. 
Those verses, and — ^ 



Chap. 
XXXII. 



214 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXII. 



* You little goose ! How red you have turned ! I didn't think 
you could be so silly.' 

* It is not silliness/ exclaimed Robina, hotly ; * he said it' 

* My dear ! he must know better. What and when?* 

* Long ago. That evening at Bexley, just before Lance went to 
Vale Leston.' 

Wilmet fairly burst out laughing. * My dear child, how can 
you bring me here to listen to such nonsense? That sort of 
children's foolishness is siUy enough at the time, but to dwell on it 
nearly four years after is too absurd.' 

* I thought it might be play then/ said Robin, ' and everybody 
would have laughed if I had told ; but it never will quite go out of 
my head, and now and then he says or does something that makes 
me think he has not forgotten either, and I thought I ought to tell 
you.' She spoke low and fast, with averted crimson face. 

* You are a good little girl, Bobbie,' said her sister kindly, from 
an immense matronly elevation; *but it is a pity anything so 
foolish and mischievous was ever said to you, and you ought 
never to have thought of it again. You should have left the boy 
if he would talk such nonsense.' 

* I couldn't Lance said we must not leave you alone/ mur- 
mured Robin. 

Wilmet gave her little clear laugh. * I'm very much obliged to 
Lance,' she said ; * but I am sorry Willie was inspired with a 
spirit of imitation.' Then, as the mirror betrayed an unconvinced 
look, * Has he said anything to you since ?' 

* I — I can't tell — ^you might not call it anything. Only that 
brooch ! O Wilmet, you aren't going to be angry with him — he 
never said anything direct' 

' I shall say nothing to him without far more reason \ I never 
saw any. At home he talks to Cherry.' 

* Yes, but — ^ she was ashamed to say * he likes me best,' and it 
turned into * Everybody does.' 

Which Wilmet could not gainsay ; and she went on : * As to the 
verses, you have sense to see they mean nothing. Willie likes you, 
of course, and we are all brothers and sisters now ; but as for any 
more, it is the merest absurdity to think of it, and though you 
mean to be good, my dear little sister, this is just working up a 



THE NID D'A VIS. 



215 



mountain out of nothing. There can't be a more unlucky 
propensity than fancying everybody is paying you attention, 
especially if you are not particularly pretty, and have to be a 
governess, and take care of yourselC' 

*I know Pm not pretty,' said Robin, rather proudly; *ahd I 
never shall expect any one to pay attention to me ;' and as Wilmet's 
smile denoted incredulity after this specimen, this is quite different 
from anyone else.' 

* I should hope so,' said the elder sister. * There now, Robin, 
you have done quite right to tell me ; and now. we'll think no 
more about it, but go on as usual.' 

Widi this Robina had to be content ; and if the incredulity was 
mortifying, at any rate liberty was sweet, and there was a precious 
undeiiying conviction that there was something that if Wilmet 
would not see, it was not her fault Conscience was free to enjoy 
the most brilliant spring her life had known. Throughout the 
fortnight of William's stay they were out together nearly all day, 
sometimes climbing near home, sometimes joining expeditions of 
English visitors, always sympathising in seriousness or sportiveness, 
and ever ready to fulfil iht sisterly part of beast of burden towards 
his belongings when he wanted to climb any specially inaccessible 
place, or smoke with the friends he picked up. She always 
viewed that fortnight as the most exquisite of her whole life 1 

There was no sentiment in their last walk ; for a brother and 
sister, who were always in the habit of fastening themselves on 
every one who was seen going out, stuck to them to their own 
door; but when Will took possession of two water-colour sketches 
he had begged from Robina, and announced his intention of 
framing and hanging them in his rooms, to call up before him what 
without them would never be forgotten^ they won for theu: artist a 
thrill of delight such as none of Geraldine's far superior perform- 
ances Lad ever obtained for her. 

Robin had no one talent in any remarkable degree ; her drawing 
was exact and tasteful, but without genius ; none of the Under- 
wood sisters, except Angela, had much voice, and her musical 
powers were only cultivated at the expense of much diligence ; 
but her general ability, clear-headedness, and intelligence were 
excellent; and John surprised bis wife by observing that he 



Chap. 
XXXIL 



9i6 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXII.. 



thought she resembled Felix the most of them all, both in coun- 
tenance and character. Robin's — ^the round ruddy face of the 
family — ^like Felix's defined delicately moulded features and fair 
colouring ! John smiled ; he never took the trouble to defend an 
opinion that Wilmet thought unreasonable, but he contented -him- 
self with saying, * There was a good deal of stuff in the Robin/ 

She did not flag when her holiday was over ; indeed, there was 
a quiet purpose in her soul that made her dutiful industry doubly 
hopefiil and pleasant She had a good master. John's nature was 
hard-working, and the invigoration of cooler air made want of 
employment irksome enough to give him great satisfaction in the 
acquisition of a well-grounded intelligent girl pupil to whom his 
aid was of real value. Their lessons and their subjects multiplied 
as his strength increased, and though they had plenty of fiin and 
nonsense over them, Robina soon felt herself making such 
progress as far more than compensated for the two months she 
had so much regretted. Wilmet, telling them that some day 
Robin would know how pleasant it was to have nothing to do with 
teaching, sat by, stitching at a set of shirts for Clement It was 
her ambition, as a parting gift, to provide each brother with a 
stock ; she had made those for Felix and Theodore by John's bed- 
side at Rameses, and to be busy with the 'white seam,' and 
watch John eager and interested, and daily looking less languid 
and pinched, was entire happiness to her The walks and drives 
became longer, and the neighbour brother and sister complained 
that Miss Underwood could never be had, and was always 
absorbed by her hard task-master, whom on her side she thought 
a far more entertaining companion than they would ever be. 

The move to the mountain nest at Bareges was made, but the 
scheme made in the warmth of their hearts in the spring, of 
William's spending the long vacation there, was not fulfilled. Two 
objections stood in the way ; first his reading for honours, secondly 
the cost He could not afford another trip out of the proceeds of 
his scholarship, and the Major's means were not so large as not 
to be seriously affected by such an illness ; while as Her Majesty's 
service had not required his proximity to the engine, he could 
not obtain compensation for his accident When Wilmet had 
come to the understanding of the finances she was to administer, 



THE NID If AVIS, 



217 



she was startled at the free and open hand which might suit a well- 
endowed bachelor officer on Indian pay, but would soon drain the 
resources of a man — ^very possibly invalided for life, and with a 
penniless wife. Robin would hardly have had that wonderful 
cheque, if in Malta her sister had been altogether informed of 
the balance at John's bankers ; and when she was consulted on 
the possibility 6f giving Bill a run, her reply was the more con- 
clusive, because, little importance as she attached to Robina's 
confession, she preferred keeping the youth at a safe distance. 
Neither examination would fare the better for mutual distractions 
on Pyrenean crags, and both together they would be far less 
companionable to John than either separately. 

Beginning wedded life in prostrate helplessness, John had been 
as entirely thought for, managed for, and * done for,* as Theodore 
himself, during these earlier months ; and when he had a will of his 
own, it was treated with indulgence as a sick man's fancy, and 
yielded to or not according to his wife's judgment ; but as time went 
on, there was sometimes a twinkle of amusement on his eye-lashes 
when he submitted, or withdrew an opinion rather than exert 
himself for conttoversy. 



CHAPTER XXXIII. 

A BOOTLESS BENE. 

* ** What is good for a bootless bene?" 
She answered, " Endless sorrow." * 



Wordsworth, 



Geraldine was yet to discover how peaceful and happy was her 
life. For a year and a half, the words at the head of our chapter 
— whatever they may mean — ^had been running in her head. 
That * bootless bene ' was a thing of sudden stabs and longing 
heartaches; but Edgar had not been a sufficiently permanent 
inhabitant to be daily missed, as Wilmet was. He had been a 
crowning ornament of the fabric of the house, not a stone whose 
loss made a gap, but rather an ever bright, enlivening, exciting 
possibility in her life, whose criticism and approval had led her on 
to art, and trained her talent and taste. She never worked at a 
drawmg without an inward moan, and wotild almost have lost 



Chap. 
XXXII. 



Chap. 
XXXIII. 



ii8 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXIII. 



heart, save that he and the clearance of his name were still her 
object ; but for reliance, support, and fellow-feeling, she had more 
in the remaining brothers than he could ever have given her. 
Felix and Lance were precious companions, and Wilmet*s de 
parture had left her no time for drooping. Housekeeping began 
by being a grievous responsibility. Cherry could not bargain like 
Wilmet, nor go down into the kitchen and toss up something 
dainty out of mere scraps for her brothers' supper ; and when she 
heard that Zadok Krishnu excelled in curry and coffee, she could 
only lift up her hands and sigh on the waste of good gifts of 
cookery upon one Major ! Martha was a good faithftil servant, 
but odds and ends did not go so far as they used to do ; and 
Cherry never could, and never did, reduce her bills to the original 
standard, though she brought them on Saturday nights with such 
misery and humiliation that Felix was forced to laugh at her, and 
represent that their pinch of poverty was over, and excessive 
frugality no longer necessary. His position was now what 
Mr. Froggatt's had been, and his means, with Lance's payment 
for board, were quite sufficient to bear the difference, even without 
Cherry's own, which fully covered the diminution through her 
want of time and of notability. Waste there was not, proftision 
there was not ; but a certain ease there was, so soon as Cherry 
had learnt, as Lance said, not to believe they should be in the 
County Court because they had spent a shilling instead of eleven- 
pence-three-farthings. She felt too that home was comfortable to 
the others. The anxious stinting, though at times needftil, had, as 
Felix hinted to her, been good for no one. Though praiseworthy 
and self-denpng when it was needful, the habit had become 
cramping to Wilmet herself, and to all the brothers it had been 
an irritation, endured by some with forbearance, but certainly 
prejudicial to others. 

Nobody was afraid of Cherry ; but since all had outgrown the 
bear-garden age, a sympathetic government was best Berser- 
karwuth might require King Stork's * Now, boys ;* but when the 
ruler was a lady, and a lame lady, chivalry might be trusted even 
in unruly Bernard, who had come to an age when freedom was 
better for him than strictness. 

So had the world gone till the autunm, when Major and 



A BOOTLESS BENE. 



219 



Mrs. Harewood had to retreat from their mountain abode, but 
did not venture on wintering in England. They had made up 
their minds to winter at Biarritz. John would have preferred Pau, 
but Wilmet set her face against it, dwelling upon the benefits of 
sea air ; and he yielded, but he would not be baulked of a day's 
halt there. It was a place he had always wished to see ; and he 
would not defraud Robin of the castle of the Foix, and of the 
tortoise-sheU cradle of le Grand Monarque, 

He could walk now, but only with a stick, and stooping and 
halting a good deal His obstinate hip was still troublesome, and 
his recovery had been retarded by painful methods of preventing 
contraction. Nor was it yet certain whether he would ever be fit 
to return to his corps \ and though he moved about the house, 
and discarded invalid habits, he was still so anxious a charge, that 
Wilmet was quite justified in her vexation at the charms of the 
old castle at Pau, where he would walk and stand about, admiring 
and discussing history and architecture with Robina and a clever 
French priest, lionising like themselves. She did catch her sister, 
and severely forbid her to make a remark that could protract the 
survey ; but the wicked priest was infinitely worse, and beguiled 
them into places where the ordinary guide would never have 
thought of taking them; iH>r was she certain that her provoking 
John did not perceive and rather enjoy her agony. 

At last she got him safe to the hotel, and into the tiny bedroom 
opening out of their sitting-room. 

' It is much quieter there,* she said, returning. * I have given 
him the Times^ and I hope he will have a couple of hours' rest 
before the table d'hote* 

* Then, Wilmet, would you come with me? I made out the 
street, and it is very near,' said Robin. 

* What street?' 

* Alice Knevett's — ^Madame Tanneguy. O Wilmet,' as she saw 
her countenance, ' you know Cherry promised the aunts that we 
would see about her if we went to Pau,' 

* Cherry had no right to make such a promise, and I do not 
mean to be bound by it Madame Tanneguy does not deserve 
notice, especially from us ! I should have thought you had had 
enough of her.' 



Chap. 
XXXIIL 



220 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXIIL 



' But should not I be unforgiving to remember that?' 

' It is not a matter of forgiveness, my dear. Her marriage was 
the best thing that could have happened to us. I am absolutely 
obliged to her for it ; but that does not make her behaviour any 
better/ 

*' No ; but suppose she was in distress ?' 

' No reason to suppose any such thing ! The man was well to 
do ; and of course she is leading that gay life the bourgeoisie do 
here — at the theatre or out on the place all the evening — ^nothing 
fit for us to associate with*' 

^ I don't want to associate, and I only think it right to find 
out' 

' What does Robin want to find out ?' said John, helping 
himself forward with the table ; some defender for Jeanne d'Albr^t, 
whom we have heard so run down to-day ?' 

* O John 1 why aren't you lying down ?' 

' Because I have no taste for being condemned to solitary 
confinement as a punishment for being beguiled by that Jesuit— 
not even in disguise. I'm going to write to my father. Aren't 
you going out again ?' 

* No,' said WilmeL 

' I thought I heard Robin wanting to find out some one for 
Cherry. These doors aren't adapted for secrets. What was it, 
Bobbie?' 

* I did not mean to trouble you about it, John,' said Wilmet 
' Do you remember about that unfortunate affair of Alice 
Knevett ?' 

* Was it to her that your brother Edgar was attached ?' 

' Yes. Remember, it was a clandestine affair ; and these 
children were made to serye as tools — ^that is, Angela was ; and 
though Robina refused, she was involved in the scrape, and 
suffered so much for it that I should not have thought she would 
have wished to run after her again.' 

* Then she married a Frenchman, did she not ?' interposed 
John. 

' Yes. After refusing to give Edgar up, and giving us all an 
infinity of trouble and annoyance, she suddenly threw him ovei 
without a word, and ran away with this Frenchman from Jersey. 



A BOOTLESS BEITE. 



221 



Yet here are the Miss Pearsons expecting us to call on her, 
Cherry undertaking that we shall, and this child expecting me to 
go and do so !' 

* Do you know an)rthing about the Frenchman?' 

* A sort of commercial traveller, I believe,' 

* Agent for a wine merchant,' said Robina. * Major Knevett 
said there was nothing against his character. Miss Pearson sent 
the address ; it is in the street at right angles with this, about 
eight doors off/ 

* Well,' said John, * I dp not see how you can refuse to satisfy 
the Miss Pearsons about her.' 

* If she were in a right frame of mind she would write to them. 
While she treats them with such neglect, I do not see why I should 
encourage her.' 

* Cherry said they thought she was ashamed to begin,' said 
Robina. * Miss Pearson wrote severely at first, and now wants 
very much to make a beginning, and to be sure that Alice is not 
in distress.' 

* I think it ought to be done,' said John ; * it is so near, that you 
can walk there at once with Robina, and at least inquire at the 
door. I do not see how you can refuse Miss Pearson.' 

Nobody had spoken to Wilmet with authority since her fifteenth 
year, and she did not recognise the sound 

' I do not choose to notice a person who has behaved like that,' 
she said ; * Miss Pearson has no right to ask it Take off your 
things, Robina ; I am going to pack for to-morrow.* 

There was no temper in her tone, only the calm reasonable 
determination that had governed her household and ruled her 
scholars ; and she walked into the other room and shut the door, 
as on a concluded af^. 

John looked round. Robina was standing by the table, wiping 
away a few tears. 

* I do not know what to do, John,* she said. * I wrote to 
Cherry that we were coming here, and would do this. May I 
have Zadok to walk with me ?' 

* Your sister is quite right,' said John. * I am the fit person to 
go. How far did you say it was?* 

^ Eight doors, I counted.' 



Chap. 
XXXllI. 



232 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



XXXIII. 



^ Then we need not get a cabriolet,' said John, reaching for hij 
hat and stick. 

* But you are so tired !' 

* Not at all. If we go early to-morrow, this is the only time foi 
-doing it.' 

Whether she experienced a spark of triumph, or whether she 
was merely frightened and uneasy, as her brother-in-law cam2 
limping downstairs after her, Robina knew not She had never 
seen any one but Fulbert fly in Wilmet's face. Felix might some- 
times differ and get his way, but that was by persuasion ; and the 
pillars of the house had always preserved the dignity of concord 
towards the younglings. It was astounding, even considering that 
he was her husband. So quietly and easily he did it, too, as if he 
had no notion what an awful and unprecedented action he was 
committing. Force of habit made Robin feel as naughty as when 
Fulbert had led her and Lance to see-saw on the timbers in the 
carpenter's yard ; and she could not divest herself of fears of some 
such reception as had awaited them on that occasion. 

Wilmet packed without misgiving. She had foreseen this 
perplexity when she endeavoured to avoid Pau, and her mind was 
too fully made up to be overruled by Miss Pearson's ill-judged 
yearnings, Geraldine's imprudent promise, Robina's foolish impulse, 
or John's good-nature. It was not resentment, but disapproval 
If Alice had jilted young Bruce she should have held the same 
course. She would not argue before her little sister; but in 
private John should be brought to a proper understanding of 
Alice's enormities, and learn thankfulness to his domestic check 
on Harewood easiness and masculine tolerance. 

Then it struck her that those two were unusually quiet in the 
next room. Some sounds she had lost in opening drawers and 
moving boxes ; but now all was still, John no doubt writing, and 
Robin — could she have gone to her own room to cry ? The elder 
sister began to relent, and think the moment come for drawing 
from her a confession of her wilfulness. She opened the door to 
seek her. Behold, John was not there. No, nor his hat and 
gloves ! Robina was not in her bedroom ! Had they absolutely 
sallied forth in opposition ? 
■ Wilmet had never been so defied by anything too big to kick 



A BOOTLESS BENE. 



223 



and scream ! She stood aghast Naughty obstinate Robina had 
wrought upon John ! He ought to have known better ! He 
would knock himself up — ^inflammation would come on — ^the 
wounds would break out again, all because of this complication of 
foolish pity for that horrid little flirt I 

Wilmet's tears gushed, her chest heaved with sobs. Why could 
he not have attended to her ? Withal his words came back to her. 

He had distinctly bidden her to go ; and had she done so, he 
would have been safe on that sofa. Bidden ? yes, it had been a 
clear desire, courteously and calmly uttered, but decisive; and 
only at this moment did it strike her that his orders were more 
binding on her than those of Felix, He had commanded. She 
had disobeyed, and he had done the thing himself, to his own 
inconvenience, not to say peril. 

Then came vexation. It was not fair I She would have gone 
anywhere had she known the alternative. Was it kind or grateful, 
after her long nursing, to risk himself without warning ! Nay, 
could a man use plainer words than * You ought ' — * You cannot 
reftise ?' Yet was she, as a wife, to obey blindly at the first word, 
against her judgment ? Perhaps Wilmet had never known so hard 
a moment as this first galling of the yoke of subjection — ^the sense 
of being under the will of another. How could he run after that 
heartless Alice, who had been Edgar's bane and Felix's grief? 
Who could tell what company she kept, or if she were fit company 
for Robina ? And the creature was so disgustingly pretty that she 
could deceive any man, even Felix. True ; but a little moderation on 
her own part, and she herself — the prudent matron — ^might have 
gone forth with her husband, protecting and protected, instead of 
exposing Robina's inexperienced girlhood and his manly good- 
nature tx> any possible contaminations or deceptions. Oh ! would 
they but come ! 

There was time for many such cycles of vexation, relenting, self- 
reproach, and anxiety — ever growing severer towards herself, bit- 
terer towards Alice and Robina, tenderisr towards John. It was 
nearly seven o'clock before the slow thud of the stick, and the steps 
with one foot foremost, proclaimed the return. Zadok was in the 
ante-room and let them in. She saw John heated and panting ; 
and reproachful solicitude predominated in her voice as she 



Chap. 
XXXIIL 



224 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXIII. 



exclaimed, * You must stay here. You are not fit for the tabk 
d'hbte: 

* None of us are/ he answered, in a low, grave tone that startled 
her ; and she then saw that Robina was looking dreadfully white 
and overcome, and trembling violently. 

As the girl met her eye, all was forgotten but the old motherly 
relation ; and there was a rush to hide her face on her, and a 
convulsive sobbing of, * O Wilmet ! Wilmet !' 

* Lay her down I I will fetch something,' said John, moving 
towards the other roomi. * She has held up with all her might* 

' But oh, what is it ? That wretched Alice ! Bobbie, my dear 
child, lie down! Don't try to keep it in; cry — ^no, you can't 
speak. O John ! What is it ? — ^Yes, that's right,' as he brough: 
what was needed from the medical resources always at hand for 
himself; * only tell me the worst' 

With his eyes on the measure-glass, and his steady hand 
dropping the stimulant, he said, in an under-tone, * A duel 1 The 
husband was killed ; but it was hardly Edgar's fault* 

Wilmet, with Robina almost fainting on the sofa, was wholly occu- 
pied in administering the drops, and bathing -the flushed face ; and 
the success of her efforts was shown by another cry of * O Wilmet !' 
and then a passion of weeping that shook her whole frame violently. 

* That is best,' said John. * She kept it in bravely.' And as the 
great tdbk cPhbte bell clanged, he went to the door and spoke to 
Zadok. 

As he returned, Robina bounded up, nervously exclaiming, * 
John, lie down, do ; you are done up i' 

But when strength was needed, he found it * Not now, thank 
you, my dear. I have told Zadok to bring us some dinner. That 
will make less disturbance. We will get ready, and after that we 
shall be better able to talk' 

Overwhelmed and crushed, the sisters did just as they were told ; 
but Wilmet turned once, and said as if out of a dream, * Is there 
an)rthing to be done ? Is he here ?' 

* Oh no ! It was months ago — ^before I saw him. It was forcea 
on him. You shall hear all presently, dearest' 

The gentle kindness restored her, or rather drove everything 
out of her thoughts but his flushed, weary, affectionate face, and 



A BOOTLESS BENE. 



2,2$ 



heavy painful tread ; and when he grasped her arm to be helped 
mto the sitting-room, and sank with a sigh into his chair, half the 
world might have killed the other half, so long as he was neither 
ill nor angry with her. 

^ Will you see for that poor child?' he said, as Zadok came up 
with the three couverts ; ' she needs restoration as much as any 
one.' 

Robina had washed her tear-stained &ce, but was only brought 
to the table as an act of obedience ; and all through the meal 
John was coercing her into swallowing soup and wine, and Wilmet 
was watching that he did not neglect his own injunctions. Then 
disposing of 2^dok with some orders about coffee, he lay down on 
the sofa, but by a sort of tacit motion invited Wilmet to give him 
one hand to play with, and stroke his hair with the other — ^his old 
solace at Rameses — ^and oh I how much it made up for to her I 
Robina was now quite restored, and longing to relieve her soul, 
and the narration chiefly fell to her. 

*' We soon found the house— one of those immense tall old ones 
~and we rang, and asked whether Madame Tanneguy lived there. 
" oul^' said they, " au quatrikme*^ We thought that rather odd ; 
and John asked again if she were English, and the concierge said, 
" Yes, assuredly ;" and as someone else came just then, we asked 
no more questions, only climbed up, up those dreadful stairs, so 
dirty and so steep. I wanted John to sit down and wait for me, 
but he would not hear of it.' 

Wilmet looked at him with moist eyes, and pressed his hand. 
* I was accoimtable for the chUd,' he said, smiling. ' Besides, there 
was nothing to sit upon.' 

* At last,' continued Robin, ' we did get to the quatrihne^ and 
rang ; and we heard a little trot-trotting, and the door was opened 
by a queer littie French child, that turned and ran away, calling 
out, ^Maman^ Mamanr and as we went in — O Wilmet ! there 
rose up, with a little baby in her arms, poor Alice, all in black, 
with a great flowing white veil, like the widow at Bagnbres. She 
knew me directly, and I believe we both gave a littie scream.' 

* That you did,' murmured Major Harewood. 

* And she said, " You — ^you ! what do you come here for ?" I did 
not know what to say, but I got out something about the aunts \ 

VOL. n. 



Caap. 
XXXIII. 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXIII. 



and she answered, '' Then you do not know, or you could never 
have broken in on me and my poor orphans !" Really I thought 
she was mad with grief, and said the aunts would have sent all the 
more ; but she burst out, " No I no I not his sister — ^his — ^the 
murderer of my husband T' and she began to cry. I only thought 
still she was mad, but — O John, what was it ? Didn't you think 
so?' 

* No, I saw that was not the case ; but I thought she took you 
for someone else, and began to explain ; and I think the curiosity 
of making out who I was, and how we came there, did more to 
bring her round than anything else.' 

' But how could this dreadful thing have been Y asked Wilmet 
* You said it once : but it cannot really be true I' 

' Too true, my dear,* said John, *but with much extenuation. 
It was last September* He really was with those National 
Minstrels.' 

*Ah!' 

*' But not by name in the programme,' said Robina. * She went 
to the theatre with her husband, and there were Hungarian and 
German songs ; but then when the English ballad began — ^the Red 
Cross Knight — ^the first notes overcame her ; she had a saisissemait^ 
screamed, and almost fainted.' 

* Just like her 1 exclaimed Wilmet * Then it was all owing to 
that ?' 

* I fear so. Edgar looked up, and when he saw her, he broke 
down. He began again, and got through the rest of his part ; but 
in the meantime M. Tanneguy had been discovering that he was 
not Alice's first love.' 

* Not by ever so many,' muttered Wilmet * And of course she 
shufHed and shifted off the blame to Edgar.' 

* If so, she has suffered for it,' said John, with gentle 
repressiveness. 

* And,' continued Robina, * whatever she could say only enraged 
him more j he took her home, then waited for Edgar at the door of 
the theatre, demanded an explanation, and challenged him. They 
fought outside the town, and M. Tanneguy was wounded ; but they 
did not think it so bad ; and, hke a brave Frenchman,- he kept up 
to his own door, so that Edgar might get safe away. On the third 



A BOOTLESS BENE. 



227 



day he grew worse, and died ! O Wilmet ! who could have thought 
it? How will Felix bear it?* 

* Remember/ said John, * that this was fastened on your brother. 
I don't, of course, look on it as anything but a crime, but it should 
not be exaggerated. To be insulted and called to account by a 
fiery Gascon, when you believe yourself the injured party, cannot 
be easily bearable ; besides, Edgar had had a foreign training, not 
so alien to duelling as ours, and his associates would expect it of 
him. For the rest, I think he must have won his enemy's heart, 
for the poor lady said much of her husband's acknowledgment of 
his generosity, and desire for his escape. I am sure he might well, 
if he did half as much for him as he did for me.' 

* And he had done this when he touched you,' said Wihnet, 
shuddering. 

* Or I should not be here,' said John. * My dear,' and he held 
both her hands, * I wish I could make you look on it in a different 
light It was not an assassination. To have refused the challenge 
would have required a sort of resolution that few men are capable 
of; above all, when all his surroundings would have expected it of 
him.' 

* What surroundings ?' replied Wilmet ' No wonder he could 
not bear to face your father and me ! Poor Edgar ! wandering 
about like Cain ! And he was such a dear little boy ! Papa used 
to call him his little King Oberon ! Oh ! I am glad Papa and 
Mamma don't know it.' She slipped down on her knees by John's 
side, hid her face in his pillow, and cried, but softly and gently 
now. 

* I don't think it can be less bad to Felix and Cherry,' said 
Robina, sadly. * How can we write to them ?' 

* We had better not do so till I have learnt more,' said John ; * I 
shall go to the bureau de police to morrow, and make inquiries, and 
try to see poor Tanneguy's employer, M. Aimery, who seems to 
have been the only friend that poor young thing has had.' 

* Why did she not write ?' asked Wilmet 

* M. Aimery did write to her father,' said Robina, * but he has 
left Jersey, and the letter was returned ; and as to the aunts, you 
know Miss Pearson did write sharply once, and Alice always took 
her strictness for unkindness, and never knew how fond of her the 

Q 2 



Chap. 
XXXIIL 



228 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXII [. 



aunts were. Indeed, I fancy she has been too ill and inert to do 
more than go on from day to day.' 

* Has she anything to live on, poor child ?' 

' Her husband had a small interest in the business, and M. 
Aimery pays her the proceeds every month — 2. hundred francs.' 

* A hundred francs ! four pounds three and fourpence for herself 
and two children !' 

* She had to move up from the nice apartments below to this 
dismal quairitme^ only one room, and very little in it \ and then 
she was ill for a long time, and the baby was bom ; and that took 
up all the ready money there was left. She has been thinking 
whether she could get any daily-governess work to do among the 
English \ but then, how can she leave the children ?* 

* Poor thing !* said Wilmet, * I must go and see her to-morrow.* 

* Do,' said her husband affectionately. * Considering all things, 
we had better remain here a few days, had we not?' 

* Certainly. I i^ill speak about the rooms. Of course we must 
do our best for her and those poor children. I hope they are girls.' 

*No,' said Robin, * boys — Gustave and Achille. Gustave looks 
pretematurally wise and solemn, with his black eyes and bullet 
head ; but when his mother cried, he went into such an agony, 
dkajt John had to shew him his watch, and give him his stick to 
ride on^ before we could hear ourselves speak. O John, what 
work you have done to day !' 

* And you too, Bobbie,' said Wilmet kindly, * you had better go 
to bed as soon as you have had your coffee.' 

Her head was aching enough to make her glad to take the 
advice ; and when she was gone, John lay still, too weary, and yet 
too comfortable, for the exertion of going to bed ; and he was not 
far from sleep when Wilmet came back from giving her sister the 
tender care dbiat the shock demanded. 

Bitterness and resistance had long been swept away by those 
terrible tidings ; but Wilmet could not forget that she had 
offended, and gathering herself into a great effort, she stood by 
the sofa, dignified, but rather constrained, and said, * I am very 
sorry about this afbemoon, John.' 

*You were quite right,' said John, sleepily; it was not a 
business for women alone.' 



A BOOTLESS BENE. 



229 



' That was not what I meant/ she answered. ' I ought not to 
have made that flat refusal. I did not recollect' 

John roused himself a little, to say, * I suppose when two people 
come together who have grown up separately, their judgments 
must sometimes differ, and there is not always time to adjust 
them.' These last words were very sleepy again. 

* No, I see I ought to have submitted ; but I had no notion you 
would go ; I behaved very ill to you, and you did it to punish me.* 

*Not exactly,' he said, stirred up at those words. *It would 
have been kinder to have told, but you had spoken plainly, and 
there seemed no time — nor occasion — for — further — Jeanne 
d'Albret— ' 

Which last words were sufficient testimony of the power of 
Morpheus. After all, he was inflicting, though he did not know it, 
a severe punishment Wilmet was not a self-tormentor like 
Cherry ; but she did not like to have her little mutiny passed over 
without a reconciliation, and to see him so perfectly unruffled by 
what had made all the depths of her heart turbid. And when he 
had * fallen asleep in her very face,' she had the strongest possible 
temptation, if not to pursue the argument, at least to demand if 
he meant to sleep there all night, and rout him into going at once 
to undress ; and when her real goodness and affection would not 
permit this, to beguile the time with the piece of intricate Pyrenean 
knitting, which had been the solace of his active nature, when he 
was good for nothing else. Though she had taught him to 
knit, those essential differences in the strength and manipulation 
of male and female fingers, made him particularly dislike to have 
rows interpolated by either of the ladies, and this she always so 
far resented, that it would have been uncommonly agreeable in 
her present mood to have gone on with the work. To abstain 
was all the harder to a person of her instincts, because no other 
occupation could be attained without opening a door, and 
breaking his slumbers ; and though Wilmet had plenty to think of, 
the deprivation of mechanical employment for her fingers was 
trying enough to take away serenity or connection from her 
tlioughts. Instead of any sort of meditation on the terrible tidings 
of the day, her mind would vibrate between desire to take up tlie 
knitting and resolution to let him sleep till eleven. 



Chap. 
XXXIII. 



230 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXIII. 



Perhaps in truth, nothing in her whole life was so difl&cult to 
Wilmet Harewood, or of so much service to her, than using sucb 
abstinence. 

The shock and horror of the tidings when they reached Bexley 
may well be believed John, after full enquiry, had written both 
to Felix and to the Miss Pearsons. Geraldine had perhaps never 
before believed that Edgar was lost to her, and the blow of 
regarding him as a murderer had such an effect upon her, that an 
illness was the consequence, in which Felix had to call in Sister 
Constance's aid to supplement little Stella's, and conquer the 
almost exaggerated feeling that for a time threatened nervous 
fever. 

Sometimes, however, a lesser worry becomes a remedy for the 
effects of a greater, and Cherry's recovery was certainly not 
retarded by a certain dismay at learning that the forgiving aunts 
had offered a home to their errant niece and her little ones. No 
one could grudge them the asylum, but it roused Cherry from 
bewailing the crime of the one brother to a far more common- 
place anxiety about the other — z. counter-irritant that so restored 
her health and spirits, that Sister Constance left her to such peace 
as it allowed her to enjoy. Felix had settled down so quietly— 
he seemed so entirely to have got over it, that it was hard to 
have all stirred up and the lady brought back again, freed in so 
dreadful a manner. No woman can ever estimate beforehand the 
effect that one of her own sex will produce on a man, however 
sensible. Her opinion is no gauge for his ; and she labours under 
the further disadvantage that her better judgment is sure to be 
pitied, if not as feminine spite, at least as feminine incapability of 
candour; and Sister Constance advised Cherry to abstain fix)m 
expressing the faintest regret The good old aunts religiously 
preserved the secret of the mode of Tanneguy's death; but no 
one who knew the niece could doubt that the whole story would 
be at the mercy of whoever chose to cultivate her confide'lice. 

Her arrival was notified by the sending in of a parcel from the 
travellers, containing Wilmet's sets of shirts for Lance and Bernard 
and two beautiful shawls in Pyrenean knitting, one for Cherry and 
one for Mr. Harewood. Felix said very little, but his complexion 
was still as tell-tale as a girl's. He was restless till Geraldine had 



A BOOTLESS BENE. 



231 



called, though he feared to ask her to do so. She was not indeed 
aneasy ahout his actions ; but only lest his affections should be so 
far out of his power as to render him unhappy and open the old 
wound. 

Her visit went off better than she expected. She was greatly 
touched by Alice's delicate appearance and altered looks, and was 
favourably impressed by her subdued affectionate manner, and her 
fervent gratitude to the Harewoods, little guessing that it was to 
Robina that she owed it alL There was so much to hear about 
the Major's degree of recovery, his kindness, Wilmet's splendid 
beauty, and the sensation it excited, and all their arrangements for 
the winter, that Cherry went home in a far more ordinary mood 
than she could have thought possible. 

For some time there was no meeting with Felix. Cherry even 
began to wish it was over, and off his mind as well as her own. 

It came about at last suddenly, Felix opened the house door 
exactly as Alice was passing; they greeted one another, and 
shook hands. She had her eldest boy with her ; he was leading 
Theodore, and Scamp, who was at their heels, instantly thrust his 
tan nose into Uttle Gustave's face, so terrifying the child, that 
Felix was lifting him in his arms out of the dog's way, when he 
was startled by a yell from Theodore. The boy had an animal's 
instinctive jealousy. He had never seen any child but himself 
and Stella caressed by his brother ; and the sight brought on one 
of the accesses of passion which had begun to seize him since his 
will and his strength had become somewhat more developed. 
Felix had no choice but peremptorily to snatch him indoors, 
leaving Madame Tanneguy and her child, who were both very 
much frightened, to Lance. 

No more effective separation could have been devised, for Alice 
could not but retain a great horror of that * dreadful boy,' who, 
though much smaller than Stella, and with little force in his sofl 
aunless fingers, was still nearly eleven years old, and twice as big 
as her tiny brown elf. If they had been shut up together, Gustaye 
would have mastered him in a minute ; but she of course viewed 
him as a formidable being; and on the other hand, his face 
changed at the word * little boy,' and his blue eyes grew fixed and 
round, and his soft murriuring to an angry inarticulate jabber, if he 



Chap. 
XXXIII. 



J832 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap* 
XXXIII. 



did but catch a sight of the little French boy fix)m the window. 
Geraldine was just beginning to feel that the preventive had come 
in a curious form, between the two unconscious creatures, when 
Madame Tanneguy received a remittance from M. Aimery, and 
could not understand how to get it cashed. So just at the old 
twilight hour of her former visits she was shown into the drawing- 
room, and a message was presently sent to beg Mr. Underwood to 
come up when he was at leisure. 

When he came, Geraldine was struck with the peculiar gentle- 
ness of his manner. It was gentle to all women and children, but 
to Madame Tanneguy it had a sort of tender reverence that gave 
its exceeding kindness a marked character, and was so unlike the 
good-natured elder-brotherly raillery that used to veil his youthful 
adoration, that Alice scandalised Cherry by exclaiming, * How 
altered Mr. Underwood is ! Grown so grave, I should not have 
known him !' As if anyone would not be grave when approaching 
the widow made by his brother. 

He had minutely fulfilled the little service for her, and no doubt 
the reverential tone gratified her, for thenceforth she was always 
coming for the help and counsel that she never failed to find. 
* Nobody could advise like Mr. Underwood,' she said ; and it was 
amazing how much she found to consult him about — ^not only her 
French investments, but her arrangements with her aunts, her 
correspondence, and at last whether she ought to bring up Gustave 
and Achille as Roman Catholics. It so much annoyed him to 
detect any pleasantry on his submission to her behests, that Cherry 
and Lance scarce durst glance their half-amused annoyance to one 
another ; and Angel and Bear never fell into a worse scrape in their 
lives than when they concocted a forgery with the ridings that 
Madame Tanneguy presented her compliments to Mr. Underwood, 
and was grieved to inform him that Gustave had scratched 
Achille's nose. Would he give her his much esteemed advice 
whether to apply court-plaster or gold-beater's skin ? 

Felix severely told Angela that to make a jest of Madame 
Tanneguy's forlorn condition betokened heartlessness, and added 
to Bernard that all the assistance that he or any of the brothers 
could afford was no more than her due, and could never atone for 
the past Bernard was really awed, and after sulking for the rest 



A BOOTLESS BENE, 



233 



of- the day, suddenly veered into a certain private adoration of the 
lady, who by this time, with returning health, was resuming her 
vivacity. She had discarded her floating crape, and her pretty 
little head shone in its native glossy jet, while she smiled, chat- 
tered, and except that she was a devoted mother, and did her duty 
conscientiously as an assistant in the school, was the old Alice to 
all intents and purposes. Nor was it her fault if the original Felix 
did not likewise revive j she tried many a little art to beguile him 
into the playful terms of their former intercourse, but he never 
relaxed that reserved, compassionate gentleness, nor allowed 
himself to forget that his brother had first loved and then made 
her a widow. Cherry could have jumped for joy that first time 
she detected, and saw that Lance did, a shadow of a shade of 
impatience at those exactions ; and finally she settled into the 
trust that propinquity was the best disenchantment, and that 
though there was still some romance, it was about the Alice of old 
visions, not the live Madame Tanneguy, whose obedient slave he 
would indeed always be, but merely as Edgar* s brother, and who 
was fast, by force of boring and of levity, dispersing all the 
remaining glamour. 

Cherry had her own anxiety, for an inspection by Wilmet was 
approaching, and very suddenly. At the end of the winter, at 
Biarritz, the travellers* plans had been deranged by an offer of an 
appointment at Woolwich, which hurried them home in the end of 
February instead of the beginning of May, as they had intended, 
and allowed them only to give one clear day to each of their 
families. To that day Cherry looked forward with some dread. 
Certainly the household was not precisely the Babel that Wilmet 
had found on her former return, but a formidable consciousness of 
shortcomings that would not bear inquisition beset her, and she 
had such a frantic bout of tidying, that Lance found her hopping 
about half dead with fatigue, and Stella nearly smothered with 
dust ; and begging an afternoon's remission from business, he 
became the merriest and most helpful of housemaids till the 
operation was accomplished. 

After all, the anxiety proved to have been a little superfluous. 
Winds howled all night, and Major Harewood*s well-known dis- 
comfort at sea made the arrival dubious till about three o'clock, 



Chap. 
XXXIII. 



2.34 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXIII. 



when, in pouring rain, a fly deposited the voyagers, shaken, 
battered, jaded, with a prolonged and wretched passage, and each 
too anxious that the other should rest, to be good for anything but 
wan smiles and affectionate greetings. They had eaten or tried to 
eat at Southampton, and nothing could be done with them but to 
shut them into Mr. Froggatt*s state bed-chamber and leave them, 
promising to be better company in the evening. 

Then there was time for Robina, who meanwhile had done little 
but run about in their service, select and open the boxes and bags 
containing what was wanted, and introduce the Hindoo, who was 
put under charge of a young Lightfoot 

Then Lance and Kobin had time to stand up in the drawing- 
room gazing at one another after this thirteen months' interval 
Lance held up his hands and pretended to fall back in dismay : 
* Robin-a-Bobbin grown into a young lady ! Ah !* 

' And what's this ?* as she flew at him to pinch the thick brown 
down upon his lip. * What kind of crop is this ?' And they took 
one of their old tumbling waltzes round the room together, as if to 
shake themselves into one, while, with the hand that each kept 
loose, Robin continued to snatch at the new decoration, and 
Lance to defend and smoothe it down. 

* Ay,' said Felix (who tolerated it by a certain effort of philo- 
sophy, and the humbling consciousness of being an old Philistine), 
' he is cherishing it for the Handel festival He wants to be taken 
for a German,' 

* O Lance, are you to go to the Handel festival?* 

* Yes, Miles has got me a place in the chorus — jolly, isn't it, of 
the old fellow ? I say, Robin, we must get you up there.* 

* I — oh ! I shall be at Woolwich then, I suppose. Do you 
know, Cherry, I must only stay till Monday ? Those two aren't 
in the least fit to get into their house at Woolwich without help, 
and John has begged me — * 

* I suppose you must,* said Cherry. * After all these good 
accounts, this is disappointing ; but how could you all cross on 
such a night?* 

* Why, Wilmet never minded the sea before, and John had 
made up his mind soldier-fashion, and thought nothing was to be 
gained by waiting. And when Wilmet had to succumb she would 



A BOOTLESS BENE. 



235 



not believe it, and was so disgusted at herself, and so miserable about 
him, that it did her all the more harm.' 

* And you ! * 

* Oh, I was quite well ; but it was horrid enough any way — and 
poor John had gone from the first to lie quite flat in the gentle- 
men's cabin, where I could not get at him.' 

^ Before I go, what do you think of him ?' asked Felix, ' One 
can't judge of his looks to-day.* 

* Oh ! he calls himself sound — the wounds are all healed at last, 
but he gets a great deal of bad pain still, either rheumatic or 
neuralgic; h^ says it comes from the strain on his constitution, 
and will take no adWce about it till he can see Dr. Manby. Then 
he's so cripply that he could not have gone on in the service if he 
were not a field-officer. He says he is quite up to it, but we think 
it a great experiment Oh I Felix — Lance — don't go — ^there can't 
be anybody tliis wet afternoon V 

* Yes,' said Felix, * this is just the time that all the old gentle- 
men who get tired of their own fire-sides, and all the professionals 
that can't take their walk, feel inclined to come and prose at 
" Froggatt's." — But they won't ^i^ant you, Lance ; I'll send if 
there's anything for you to do. — Good-bye, Robin Redbreast, you 
do look uncommonly nice!' and he took her round cheeks 
between his bands, and held up her face to kiss each of them, 
with mouth and brow, individually and gravely. 

* She's the Robin still,' said Cherry, * only just a little polished 
up.' 

* Developing,' said Lance, stalking round her, and speaking his 
words deliberately ; * developing — ^into — the — bloom — of — sweet — 
seventeen — ^and of — ^ 

* Not beauty !* broke in Robina. • ' I would not be as pretty as 
Wilmet for two-pence.' 

* Not for a major ?* suggested Lance. 

* He didn't marry her for her beauty,' vehemently responded 
Robina, ' but for her — ^her niceness. Her beauty has been always 
in her way, and a nuisance to her, and — ' 

* Sour grapes !' quoth Lance. 

* Not a bit It would be a worse hindrance in my branch of 
the profession.' 



Chak 
XXXIU. 



2^ 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXIII. 



I^nce did not answer in jest this time ; he looked at the bright 
pleasant-faced girl in her maidenly bloom and fresh stylish dress, 
and said, * What a horrid pity it is ! she looks ten times more of a 
lady than ninety-nine out of a hundred of 'em — and there she's to 
go and grind and be ground just for a governess.' 

* Not a bit more of a pity than that — I'll not say that you 
should be a printer, Lance, but than that anybody should be any- 
thing. I learnt my Catechism, you see, to learn and labour to get 
my own living.' 

* So you sent Madame Tanneguy home to prevent you from 
getting into Wilmet's shoes at Miss Pearson's ?' 

' I should hope I was fit for sdmething more than that i' 

* Well done, Bob !' 

* I didn't mean — ' said Robina, rather distressed, * but you see I 
have had a much better education than ever Wilmet could get, 
and have gone on longer with it ; and I can go in for things that 
girls here would not care to learn ; so, as I am not wanted to 
keep house with Wilmet, it would be just waste for me to come 
and do like her — poked up in this comer.' 

. * Ah ! you've had a taste of the world,' said Lance, speaking in 
jest ; but Robina, recollecting how he had crushed any ambition of 
his own, and who did veritably feel that though home was home, 
Bexley was dull and narrow, turned round with moist eyes. 

* O Lance, I hope it is not that ! You know I have been 
brought up to go out, and it seems my work and duty ; but I 
think it is a great deal more honourable to stay here because one 
is wanted.' 

* Because one can't help it,' said Lance, pulling her hair and 
smiling. * Have you learnt to make speeches in France, Bob ?* 

* No. But indeed. Lance, I do want to know if you do never 
get tired of things now P' 

* Oh ! I've no right ; I'm not one of the highly educated ones f 
said Lance, in a spirit of teazing. 

* Now,- Lance, don't punish me, when I really want to know.' 

* Taking into consideration the awful slowness and stodginess ol 
the place, and the contempt of one's highly educated brothers and 
sisters,' said Lance, slowly, but with a twinkle in his eye that 
somehow made up for the words, * one does drag on life pretty 



A BOOTLESS BENE, 



m 



well, by the help of Pur and the organ. The new one is coming 
by next summer, if there's any faith or conscience in the builder, 
which I believe there is not* 

* And,' she added, coming near and speaking low, ' did I not 
hear that there had been a letter from Ferdinand ?• 

Cherry looked for it * Felix took it down to answer,' she said, 
* but it was from Sydney. He had seen Mr. Allen.' 

*0h!' 

^Yes. He tracked those National Minstrels all over India, 
Bombay, Calcutta, all manners of places — good faithful fellow — 
and at last he found they had gone to Sydney, and there, actually, 
was Mr. Allen, settled down as a music-master, making — I don't 
know what in a week.' 

' But—' 

*But there had been a great quarrel, and the concern had 
broken up ; and he did not in the least know where poor Edgar 
was gone,' sighed Cherry. * Robin, did you hear what name 
he sung under at Alexandria ?* 

* No, Ferdinand only told Wilmet that his name was not in the 
programme.' 

* That good Cacique !' broke out Lance ; * he is about the 
slowest-witted fellow that walks the earth. I believe he would 
never believe it was he if he saw anything less than Thomas Edgar 
Underwood in extra type. If he only woidd have sent me, I'll be 
bound I'd have run Edgar down in no time, instead of being 
always three months behind him, and now off the scent' 

' No, but is he ?' 

* No, he has not given it up,' said Cherry. * Mr. Allen did 
not know whether they were gone to Melbourne or Adelaide, 
and he meant to try both ; and to go and see Fulbert and Mr. 
Audley.' 

* One of them will stumble on him while Feman is staring 
about with his nose in the air,' said Lance. 

* I am afraid he will only avoid them,' said Cherry sadly. 

* And another certainty is that he will have taken some fresh 
alias,' said Lance, * while the Cacique is still hunting for Tom 
Wood. I bet on Fulbert's finding him !' 

* Has he parted from those Hungarians too ?* 



Chap. 
XXXIIL 



238 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXIII. 



* Ay, there's the question! Should you like a prima-donna 
sister-in-law, Robbie ?* 

* No, no, no — don't. Lance,' cried Cherry; *Mr. Allen said 
Mademoiselle Zioraya had — the horrid woman — thought much more 
of Edgar since — * she could only pause, * but he was far too sharp 
to be drawn in.' 

* That I believe,' said Lance. * Never fear, Cherry, we shall 
have him some of these days, with a long beard, a longer fortune, 
and the longest story — ah!' with a long sigh, *if I wasn't an 
organist, wouldn't I like to be a scamp !' The offensiveness of 
which word was concealed by a sudden embrace of the Scamp 
dog, who was made to stand on his hind legs, with his feet in 
Robina's hands, tO display his beautiful topaz eyes; and in the 
midst of the exhibition the door opened, and John came slowly in, 
leaning on his stout stick. 

* O John, I am glad ! are you rested ? Haven't you been 
asleep ?^ 

* No ; I think Wilmet will sleep if she is alone, so I am going 
to waste no more time. Thank you,' as Robina put the cushion as 
he liked it, and looked into his face with inquiry as she detected 
the well-known lines that showed it was pain that made sleep 

j hopeless. He smiled and gave a little nod, by which she under- 
I stood that she was to keep her discovery to herself, and that it was 

not so severe but that he hoped to amuse it away ; and he began 

at once laughing with Geraldine. 

* Well, Cherry, you see I've a rival to Lord Gerald.' 

* I began to think I ought to offer him to you, though it would go 
to my heart.* 

* As if I would be put off with a slender little wand like that,' 
said John. * That's what I call a stick.' 

* That's what I call a club,' retorted Cherry. * I should want 
somebody else to carry me if I took such a monster ;' and they 
proceeded to a sort of tilt between their two supporters. 

* I won't have disrespect to my steadfast friend ! She's made of 
olive tree ; her name is Olivia ; and I believe Wilmet is jealous of her.' 

* Indeed she is,' said Robin. * When you go out all by yourself, 
and come in hardly able to speak. That's what he went and did at 
Paris.* 



A BOOTLESS BENE, 



239 



* When one has got a wife and a sister, one breaks loose some- 
times. Here, you httle Star, come and speak to me ! Why, you 
were a blackberry-gathering baby when I saw you last I Let me 
look at you now. How old are you ? ' 

* Eleven and a quarter,* breathed a little voice, as he gathered 
two tiny hands into his, and a pair of porcelain blue eyes glanced 
up for a moment out of the most dainty little oval chiselled face 
and pink-and-white complexion, set in soft brown hair. 

' And can eleven and a quarter hatch an tgg from the Palais 
Royal ? ' Not from Bill's nid (Tavis^ but of a bird of larger growth,* 
as Stella, with a half-breathed * thank you ' rosiness spreading over 
her face, and lips raised for a kiss, beheld a beautiful blue egg, con- 
taining implements of needlework. 

John tried to talk to her over it, but could get nothing but 
monosyllables, and blushes, and smiles, till he released her, and she 
flew offi * To shew her ^gg to Theodore,' said Cherry. There's 
some baking going on ; and he never stirs from the kitchen while 
he can handle the dough.' 

What a lovely little fairy it is ! ' said John ; * but is it wound up 
to say nothing but yes or no ? ' 

*She is awfully shy,' said Lance. * Bill can't get as much out of 
her as you have done.' 

* She has not spoken a word since I have been in the room,' added 
Robin. 

*She is a strangely silent child,' said Cherry. 'Sometimes I 
think living so much with Theodore helps to make her so. She is 
quick at her lessons, and is a perfect little book of reference ; and 
will talk to me gravely when we are alone ; but it never seems to 
come into her head to chatter. I'm sure Lance and Robin have 
talked more nonsense in this hour than she has in six months.' 

* I've a longing to hear Stella perpetrate a little nonsense,' said 
Lance. * When Angel and Bear are at home, and there is a good 
gabble, there sits the child, her bright eyes smiling and gleaming, 
without a word.' 

A knock at the door. * Mr. Lancelot, there's the Centry carriage 
in the High Street.' 

' There, you see what it is to be the lady's man I ' said Lance, 
laughing and running down. 



Chap. 
XXXUI. 



240 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXIII. 



* The Gentry carriage means your cousin no more/ said John. 

* No ; she has let Gentry to an old general with a large family. 
She said she knew nothing about country poor, and hated county 
people ; and her mother likes nothing really but Brighton. I think 
she is quite right/ said Gherry. 

* What sort of people are they ? ' 

* Oh 1 they do very well for the parish ; but of course are nothing 
to us. The General proses over the papers to Felix sometimes , 
and the daughters have the loveliest eyes in the world.' 

' That's Lance/ said Robina, laughing. ' Is he as tender-hearted 
as ever?' 

* Oh yes ; or more so ; but as long as the ladies all have the 
most beautiful faces that ever were seen, and his attentions are con- 
fined to putting attractive advertisements into their parcels, I don't 
mind.' 

* Lance is the most altered of you all,' said John. 

*Dear Lance,' said Cherry, *he has got back a great deal of his 
sunshine — quite enough to be very delightful to us, though I doubt 
whether he is always as bright to himself. There is a certain 
sehnsucht in the pieces of music he goes on improvising, that 
sometimes makes me anxious.' 

* You mean whether he has got into the right line,' said John. 

* It's no use thinking about that ; Felix could not do without him ; 
and he is fit for nothing else now,' said Cherry. * I fancy 
when the new organ comes, he will have a love in that and be 
happy.' 

John was thoroughly one of themselves, more eager about Bexley 
affairs than his wife, though she was thoroughly her affectionate self 
when she joined them in the evening. She was too much tired, 
and too glad to see their faces, to do more than repose in the 
sight ; and it was kinder to sing than to talk to either traveller. 
Even the next day, when the ravages of the storm had been 
repaired, she had too much on her own hands to have leisure to 
set Cherry to-rights ; and if she perceived any disuse of her pet 
economies, she acquiesced as if it were to be quite expected, and 
no more worth a protest than matters at the Bailey, whither she was 
going the next day. To be sure, there was a kind of implied ex- 
pectation that she would some day arrive for a general rectificatioa 



A BOOTLESS BENE, 



241 



of what could just be tolerated under present circumstances ; but 
this was not a very pressing alarm. 

The visit was over, the new home at Woolwich begun ; and 
before many weeks were over, it welcomed what father and aunt 
united in calling a magnificent boy. Felix went with Mr. Harewood 
to the christening, and found his sister a different creature, lovelier 
than he ever remembered her. It seemed as if her happiness 
would have been almost too great for this earth if John had only 
been as strong and well as he tried to appear. But, after all, Felix 
really believed Wilmet would have been lost without some one to 
nurse besides Christopher Underwood, dutifully named after his 
two grandfathers. 

Alda had actually come down for the day. It was the first time 
the sisters had met since the funeral at Gentry Park, and it had 
cost her an effort, for her third daughter was but ten days older 
than Wilmet's baby ; and she could not withold a slight plaint at 
the inequalities of fate, in bestowing only girls where they were 
less welcome, while the sex of Wilmet's magnificent boy could be 
of no possible consequence — a remark which so exasperated not 
only the mother, but the father, as greatly to amuse Felix. 

Lady Vanderkist looked* very thin and worn, as if much less 
recovered than Wilmet, who had a beautiful fresh bloom, and was 
vigorous while Alda was languid; but the brother and sister 
gathered that her difficulties in coming down were far less caused 
by health than by disregard to her private wishes and plans. 
Wihnet regretted that she had not brought her little Mary ; and 
she said she had hoped to do so, but had found she could not have 
the horses, and did not like to take her in a cab. She warmly 
invited Wilmet to town, but to Marilda's house, not her own, except 
for mornings ; and she apologized with real vexation for not being 
able to offer Felix a bed, Adrian expected someone that evening. 

She was, of course, beautifully dressed \ but Wilmet, in a delicate 
pale-grey silk and Parisian rose-bud bonnet, was not the foil she 
used to be; and the two sisters were still a very striking pair, 
though no one would have guessed them to be twins, so worn did 
Alda looL She was much kinder to Robina, too, and absolutely 
eager to hear of every one at home. 

But what struck Felix most was this. He had business in 

VOL. IL . R 



Chap. 
XXXTIl. 



142 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chak 
XXXIII. 



London, and went back with her late in the afternoon. At the 
last moment, Wilmet, wanting to cloak her sister, transferred her 
baby to his father, who, as he held him, smiled to him with one of 
those little gestures of tenderness, that express so very much 
because they are involuntary and unconscious ; and after the brother 
and sister were seated in the fly, when they looked back with a 
last wave of the hand, Robina alone answered it ; the papa and 
mamma were wholly occupied in handing back their treasure with 
a kiss on either side. • Alda went on looking out, and presently 
Felix saw her handkerchief stealing up to her eyes. Perhaps she 
thought herself composed, for she turned round and said, with an 
effort at a smile, * That's what it is to have a boy ! If Adrian had 
ever looked Uke that T 

Felix charitably refrained from expressing his accordance with her 
former sentiment, that it would have been all the same with a girl ; 
and indeed Alda had miscalculated her fortitude, for speaking 
brought a flood of tears. Felix durst not look at her, and doubted 
whether to let himself be conscious, but said at last, * Caresses are 
no test Many men do not care for very young children.' 

She shook her head; but as they arrived at the station she 
forced back her tears, bit her lip, and " drew forward her spangled 
veil ; Felix brought her a glass of water, and she walked along the 
platform with him, holding his arm with a clasp that reminded 
him of the day he had taken her home from Thomas Underwood's, 
but not a word did she say in the train. 

There was no carriage to meet her, and Felix could not resoh'c 
not to see her home. 

* Oh ! thank you,' she said, more warmly than perhaps she had 
ever thanked him before. * IVe always said one must come to 
you for chivalry. But it is terribly out of the way ; you will be late 
for the dinner in Palace Gardens.* 

* They must forgive me,' he said ; * and I should like to see the 
last of you.* And as he sat by her in the hansom, he tried to give 
her a smile, all affection and no pity. 

* I wish there was time for you to go in. I want you to see 
little Mary ;' then presently, after an effort, * You'll not speak of 
this, Felix. I'm not strong yet ; and I suppose daughters always 
are a disappointment where there is a title.' 



A BOOTLESS BENE. 



243 



Felix supposed it too, and very kindly. 

* Is there any chance of your coming to town again, soon ?* she 
asked, * I am always at home and alone before three.* 

* I do not think I shall — ^no — Lance is going up to the Handel 
festival, and we cannot be away together.' 

* Little Lance ! I've not seen him since he used to have his 
head-aches. But it is no use to think of it, we shall not be in town 
by that time, the house is so dreadfully expensive. We shall not 
have one another year. One gets sick of so much going out, and 
with all these little girls it is time to begin to be prudent.' 

Felix had seen enough of Sir Adrian Vanderkist's name on the 
turf to think the sentence ominous ; not that he was afraid of any 
great crash, but expensive tastes did not accord with estates 
entailed and the annual birth of a daughter ; and he was greatly 
touched by Alda's collapse of self-importance. 

He was late, and Marilda forgave him easily, but Mrs. Underwood 
vas cross. No doubt she had fumed about poor relations having 
DO right to keep her waiting; and though there was soniething 
indefinable about Felix that hindered her from manifesting this 
cause of displeasure, his having been engaged in Alda's service 
did not pacify her. She considered Lady Vanderkist as extremely 
ungrateful for not having transported Marilda into those upper 
circles to which marriage had introduced her, without taking into 
account that the obstacle lay, not with Sir Adrian, who was ready 
enough to pay court to riches, but with Marilda herself. That 
young lady was forming her own way in the world. She had had 
enough of the Golden Venus line while, for her father's sake, she 
submitted to it; and she did not choose to force herself into 
fashionable circles. Country poor and the Lady Bountiful life, 
that her mother would have accepted as * comifo,' were distasteful 
to her ; but she had thrown her business abilities into the service 
of London charities, and was there becoming every year a more 
considerable power. Her business premises were in St. Matthew's 
district ; and this made her regard herself as a parishioner, and 
undertake no small amount of service, of descriptions better known 
to the clergy-house than to her mother, who set down to the 
accounts of the office many an hour spent in Whittingtonian schools 
and alleys. At any rate, Marilda had become a much more 

R 2 



Chap. 
XXXIII. 



244 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXIII. 



Chap. 
XXXIV. 



agreeable person, with more aplomb, more ease, and decidedly 
less touch of vulgarity, since she had made her standfast, ceased to 
be dragged at the wheels of the car of fashion, and become the 
managing spirit of Kedge and Underwood, besides all that St 
Matthew's Imew of. 



CHAPTER XXXIV. 

THE VICAR OF VALE LESTON. 

* Cushions and cloth an' books, takin' the old church right roun,* 
Surplice, shovel, and broom, they would na ha' fetch'd half-a-crown, 
Commandments to boot. They was the only good lookin* things 
Wi' yellow cherubs between 'em, and nout but heads and wings. 
Parson Myles was a hunter, and could gallop through a prayer, 
Right straight ahead over anything, an' stop him who dare.' 

Rev, W, Hey gate. 

There was to be a meeting about the paving of the town: 
Mr. Underwood, though only twenty-eight, was a town-councillor, 
and decidedly an influence in himeslf, as well as through the 
* Pursuivant* He had so worked his way up, that his fellow- 
citizens accepted him as one of themselves ; and his birth and 
breeding gave him a power which they felt without in the least 
acknowledging. Besides, his conscientious journalising made him 
always thoroughly get up his subjects ; and he threw himself into 
the merits and history of asphalt and flag-stones with that * all his 
might ' with which he did whatsoever his hand found to do. 

He was busy on an article to prepare the way for the meeting, 
when Lance, who had been making selections from London papers, 
laid the last sheet of the ' Times * on his desk, and silently pointed to 
the obituary : — 

* On the 4th, at Torquay, aged 37, the Reverend Fulbert Bowles Underwood, 
Vicar of Vale Leston Abbas, only son of Fulbert Underwood, Esquire, of Vale 

j Leston Priory.' 

* I see,* quoth Felix. 
Five minutes' waiting while he wrote. 

* I say, does it go into Pur ?' 

* Certainly not. What matters it to any one here?' 



THE VICAR OF VALE LESTON. 



24S 



That was all Lance could get out of Felix ; and after a time 
came the second delivery of the post All the letters lay in a heap 
on the office table, just when, as Lance mentally termed him, the 
longest-windedest, button-holderest of all the municipality walked 
in to bestow his opinion on the paving question upon Mr. 
Underwood; and Lance not only had to retreat from the im- 
portant conclave, but was occupied himself by a succession of 
customers for a quarter of an hour after its conclusion. When he 
made another rush into the office, he found Felix still writing away 
at the paving stones, but with a good deal of red in his cheeks, and 
a letter lying by his side. 

* Read that, Lance,' he said, * but don't speak till this is done.' 

Lance read : — 

Vale Leston Priory, May 7th. 

My Dear Mr. Felix Underwood, 

I write by desire of my poor friend Mr. Underwood, to acquaint you 
with the death of his son, your cousin, the Vicar, at Torquay, on the 4th of this 
month. The melancholy event had long been anticipated, as there had been a 
complete break-up of constitution ; and I for one never expected to see Him 
return home alive when he went to Torquay with his wife last winter. Mr. 
Underwood has felt the loss deeply, though not with the same acuteness as if 
he had not had such long preparation, and it had not taken place at a distance. 
He has become much more feeble since you saw him five years ago, when 
certainly you left a lasting impression. He wishes you to be present at the 
funeral, with any of your brothers to whom it may be convenient. The time is 
fixed for next Friday, the loth, at eleven o'clock. Your rooms will be ready 
for you on Monday ; and if you will mention your train, you shall be met at 
Church Ewe or Ewmouth. It seems premature to mention it, but Mr. Under- 
wood is so anxious that no time should be lost, that he desires me to intimate 
to you, that if you can procure immediate Ordination, he will present you to the 
Vicarage. I do not take this to be as simple a matter as he does, but under 
the circumstances, and with your studious turn, I should think it quite 
possible for you to be ready before the Vicarage lapses, and the poor old 
Squire has evidently set his heart on it, and planned it ever since he gave up 
hope of his son's life. Congratulations would be out of place at this moment, 
but I trust that the succession is now secure. 

Remember me to my friend Mr. Lancelot — I trust that headaches are with 
him a thing of the past — and believe me. 

Yours very truly, 

H. Staples. 

Lance made all manner of contortion;- with his visage, read and 
re-read, indulged in a suppressed war-dauce, and finally merged all 



Chap. 
XXXIV. 



Z46 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXIV. 



other sensations in ajx agony of impatience^ as still Felix's eyes and 
pen continued to travel over his sheet; and not a muscle of his 
face moved until the last was handed to little Lightfoot, and sent 
off to the press. 

* That's done/ then he said. 

* You may well be on the board of paving-stones !' cried Lance. 
' Nothing but one of them could have gone on so.' 

' It had to be done.* 

* I could as soon have done it as flown.' 

* Not if you never let your mind loose from it Now for the 
letter. Stay, we'll take it up to Cherry. I'll just say a word to 
Lamb.' 

Felix's courtesy to his subordinates always went a great way. 
The noontide lull of business was beginning to set in, but Cherry 
and Stella looked up from their lessons in amaze as both brothers 
came in ; and Cherry mutely clasped her hands, and with the 
word Edgar fluttering on her Hps, but as both faces plainly indicated 
no, she raUied instantly, saying, * What wonder of wonders is it?' 

* Nothing very surprising,' said Felix gravely. * It is that poor 
old Fulbert, at Vale Leston, has lost his son, and wants me to go 
to the funeral' 

* That's not all,' added Lance. * What do you think of his 
wanting this here Giant to get himself ordained, and take the 
Vicarage on the spot ?' 

* Felix, you could not — ^not in time.' 

* Nor at all. That is not to be thought of; but I shall go 
through London, take Clement down with me, and see if I cannot 
get the living for him ; but let me read you the letter — I could 
barely glance at it' 

He read ; and Cherry broke out, * The succession secure ! Does 
that mean to you ?' 

* I am heir-at-law,' said Felix quietly ; * and it was entailed on 
me in case his son had no children.' 

* He takes it coolly, doesn't he?' said the far more elated Lance, 
* but then he's had plenty of preparation.' 

* You don't mean that you've known about this ?' 

* I knew the estate had been entailed on me to prevent this pool 
man from alienating it.' 



TITE VICAR OF VALE LESTON. 



247 



* You knew, and you never told anyone, and went on as usual !' 

* How would you have had me go on ?* he asked, with a certain 
provoking meekness, that sent her into a laugh, while Lance, 
catching Stella's wondering eyes, practically answered the question 
by locking her fingers in his, and whirHng her round in a sort of 
impromptu choric dance, chanting : — 

* Wrong shall be right, 
And right shall be might, 
When—' 

C bless me, what a plague three syllables are !*) 

* When Felix' right and Felix' might 
Shall meet upon Vale Leston height I' 

* It is not a height,* interposed Felix. 

* The King shall have his own again then,' amended Lance. 
*No, I have it. The 'enchantment is over, and the Frog-prince is 
about to resume his proper shape T 

* Lance, considering — ' 

* Blunderbore, considering the extraordinary relief and dis- 
burthening of ray mind, after labouring under this secret five years 
come August, if it were not profane, I should compare myself to 
Christian when the pack dropped ofif his back I' 

* But why was it a secret ?' 

* For two reasons, Whiteheart,' said Felix. * First because there 
was nothing to tell ; and secondly, because that ** nothing'' might 
have turned several heads. Still, I beHeve you would have known 
it long ago, if I had not been ashamed after binding over Lance.' 

* Please, may I understand ?' entreated Stella, in rather .a 
melancholy voice, as she found her usual mode of observation quite 
inadequate. 

* Understand, my Star ! Yes,' said Lance ; * understand that we 
were all of us kicked out — all of us that were there to kick, that is 
to say — from the jolhest place in all the world ; and now things 
are coming right, and Felix is going to be a fine old English 
gentleman who had a great estate! I declare it makes me so 
poetical I can't get on !' 

* You'd better come to me, Stella,' interposed Felix. * Nothing 
is going to happen now, my dear. It is only this. The old house 



Chap. 
XXXIV. 



248 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXIV. 



where we elder ones were bom was meant to belong to my mother, 
but there was a flaw in the will that left it her, and so it went to 
the more direct heir ; and my father would not go to law because 
he did not think it right when he could not afford it, and especially 
as he was a clergyman.' 

* O Felix !' cried Cherry eagerly. 

* Yes ; I have a copy of the letter. And now, the poor old 
gentleman who had it has lost his son, and has sent me a kind 
message, as if he wished me to go back there ; but that will not be 
in his life-time, so we need not talk about it. There is nothing to 
make any change now.' 

' No ?' asked Cherry, disappointed. 

* Of course not Expectations are not good sustenance. The 
reversion is possibly very distant, and there may be some mistake 
about it, after all.' 

* Well I one ought to be prepared,' said Cherry ; * but oh ! to 
see you at home — ^home — yes. Vale Leston is home ! O Felix, 
what it will be!' 

* Don't set yourself on wishing it,' said Felix anxiously. * Re- 
member Pur and the business are our dependence or independence, 
and most likely are far better and safer for us.' 

* Pshoo !' shouted Lance ; * I won't have you talk book !' 

* May I tell Wilmet?' entreated Cherry. 

* No harm in that ; meantime I must get things in train, and 
then walk over to explain matters to Mr. Froggatt ; and as soon as 
I can get away to-morrow I shall go up to town, and make Clement 
come on with me.' 

* O Fee, one moment ! Are we to go into mourning ?' Then, 
as he held up his hand, * It means more than you tliink. It shows 
how much we hold by the connection ; and if I understand you, 
you wish nothing so little as to have it trumpeted about that Mr. 
Underwood has great expectations.' 

*As prudently stated as W. W. could have done it ! It must 
turn on the degree of connection.' 

* Is he as near as Tom Underwood was ?' 

* The same on miy mother's side. Yes, put on black ribbons ; 
but, as you say, don't trumpet the thing. Don't begin about it, 
but if any one asks, explain how it stands.' 



THE VICAR OF VALE LESTON. 



249 



The heir-expectant was gone ; and Lance, after waiting to indulge 
in another pantomime of exultation, ran after him, humming : — 

' Oh, to see him back again !' 

By the middle of the next day Felix was able to leave home, 
after having seen the Froggatts, whom he treated with as much 
deference and attention as if he were still accountable to them. 
The reception of his communication made him glad that he had 
been silent when the chances were more remote, for though Mrs. 
Froggatt was ready to cry for gladness at the notion of bis taking 
his own proper place as a gentleman, and had a farmer's daughter's 
respect for the squirearchy, her husband feared that empty 
anticipation would spoil Felix for a tradesman, and be injurious to 
the business, which he viewed with tender pride and solicitude. 
So he lectured on the uncertainty of prospective fortunes, and the 
folly of reckoning on them, till it was evident that his confidence 
would have been sorely shattered had the bare notion been 
whispered five years earlier. Indeed, his comfort seemed com- 
promised by finding that Felix would not be the permanent 
property of the business, and he was almost displeased, as if he 
thought he had allowed it to pass into his hands on false pretences. 
It was vexatious and disappointing ; but he had to be left to recover 
the first shock, which, after all, proved his love and value for the 
young man. 

Felix did not reach Whittingtonia till late ; and on inquiry at 
the clergy-house, heard that Mr. Underwood was not at home, but 
the Vicar was. To him therefore Felix went in his study, not 
sorry to ask his advice. Clement, who would not receive priest's 
orders for some weeks, was over young for the charge of an 
utterly neglected parish ; but it was dangerous to let the presentation 
pass by, since only a brother could satisfactorily co-operate in 
dealing with the old ancestral sacrileges, in case he should ever 
come in for the property himself. 

Mr. Fulmort never spoke while Felix told his story ; and the 
bell for Evensong had begun by the time it closed. Then he said, 
" I am very glad, heartily glad. I have been watching Clement, 
and I see he is not tough enough yet for our work. When a 
young fellow, of such a length too, can't eat after any hard day's 



Chap. 
XXXIV. 



250 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXIV. 



work, instead of being ravenous, he is sure to break down the first 
time he takes cold or catches an illness, and then he is done for. 
I should have had to drive him away elsewhere, at least for some 
years, poor fellow, though none has ever been more like a son to 
me. Yes, of course he is too young, but he is not the sort of stuff 
that falls into slackness, and that is more fatal than any amount of 
blunders and foolishness. 

The last words startled Felix. He had been so anxious to 
place Clement at Vale Leston, that he had thought of no draw- 
backs till he was roused to a foreboding of that dour uncompromising 
rigidity, left to itself, sowing dissensions, becoming a hard master 
to them all — ^nay, not improbably alienating the old Squire, and 
overthrowing all their prospects 1 Such a future passed before 
Felix in his transit across the quadrangle, and was met, but not 
disposed of, by the sense that it was right and just that Clement 
should be put forward, *• Fais ce que dois^ advienne que pourraJ 
He had put Clement into his own place to console his fisither 
for his own secession to secular work ; and if devotion, blame- 
lessness, and earnestness were recommendations, they were not 
lacking. * And if he do give offence, and all be left to Marilda,' 
thought Felix, * let it go. It would only be for conscience sake. 
Poverty is better than riches I and I may have to show that I 
believe so. I only hope that the boy will not do the thing in 
some pig-headed way, in which it would be hard to back him up.* 

Misgivings vanished for the time when his brother was in sight 
It was not easy to make him out in the deep perspective of the 
choir. Felix only knew that a fair-haired head above the average 
line must be his; but when he came forward to the Eagle, 
whence he was to read the Second Lesson, and afterwards give 
his lecture, he was in full view. In his lankiest hobbedy-hoy days, 
Clement had always looked his best surpliced ; and now, with the 
cassock beneath, the stole over one shoulder, and his black-and- 
white hood, his figure had a certain dignity, and his voice gave 
Felix a thrill. The mixture of hereditary tone and unconscious 
imitation were such that when he shut his eyes he could believe 
himself a boy at St Oswald's, listening to his father ; and even 
when he looked up the illusion was hardly dispelled, for the half- 
light brought out the similar moulding of the features, and a 



THE VICAR OF VALE LESTON. 



nervous flush, when he began his own composition, recalled the 
hectic tinting. He gave a careful little discourse, evidently one of 
a series, and the allegory of the Wilderness life with much more 
depth and poetry than the elder brother had expected 

He had taken care to place himself out of direct view of the yoimg 
preacher, and his appearance in the quadrangle was an immense 
surprise to Clement *FeUx! you here! nothing the matter? 
What's that? Not poor Edgar? as his eye fell on Felix's new 
hat and hat-band. 

* No, no — this is for the younger Fulbert of Vale Leston. I 
have more to say to you.' 

* Come in to supper, then. Have you seen the Vicar ? Do 
you stay the night ? That's jolly 1 Here, Fred, you've not seen 
my brother !' 

Fred Somers was known to be Clement's fnend. With one 
of the natures that prefers external to home friendship, Clement 
had at first bestowed his aiFection on poor Harry Lamb, and since 
upon this companion, who had been his predecessor by half a year 
in everything, and in whom Felix was diverted to see his complete 
contrast Mr. Somers was at least five inches below Clement's 
six feet one and a half, and was a dark, plump, merry Uttle man, 
who looked as if the Vicar never need scruple about getting any 
amount of work out of him ; and Clement, with a hand on his 
shoulder, looked perfectly happy, and as if working at St 
Matthew's side by side witii him were all he desired. And very 
overgrown and boyish Clement looked too at that supper, a very 
merry one. There were the six clergy, fourteen choir boys, 
and sundry chance-helpers, mostly talking eagerly, with a 
good deal of laughter at old and new jokes. Felix, seated by 
the Vicar, thought Clement far more at his ease, more playful 
and familiar, than ever he had seen him at home, and infinitely 
less on his dignity than he. ever allowed himself to be with Lance 
and Bernard. 

After supper, the two brothers repaired to Clement's tiny 
private room, uncarpeted, with a table, two Windsor chairs, 
and a book-case ; and then, when the elder had explained, the 
younger flatly refused to have anything to do with Vale Leston 
Abbas. 



Chap. 

xxxiv. 



252 



THE PILLARS OF THE ILOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXIV. 



* I !' he said, * go to a fat easy-going country living when the 
need is so urgent here ? I to stand alone when I want years of 
training ? It would be enough to ruin me T 

' But the place, Clement. This parish will never be ill-supplied 
while Mr. Fiilmort lives ; but people have souls down in the 
country.' 

Clement had not much feeling for souls whose bodies he had 
never reaUsed ; but he answered, ' Very bad for the souls to have 
an inexperienced priest* 

* Quite true ; but observe, it is not the choice between you and 
such a clergyman as you would select, but between you and no 
one knows who — certainly a person who could not help in the 
complication of family and Church property, as only a brother 
could do.' 

* That is all in the clouds,' said Clement. * I have made up 
my mind to ten years' service here, and I intend to keep to it' 

* The Vicar says you have not strength for it* 

* Then I shall go on without it' 

* Till you kill yourself.* 

* The best end one could come to.' * 

* No, not if there be a leading of Providence elsewhere.' 

* I observe that Providence is generally said to lead in the 
direction of ease and ;£^ s. d. No, Felix, I am much obliged, 
but even if this old man would appoint a vicar of decided 
opinions like mine, I cannot allow myself to be led aside into a 
path of wealth and luxury contrary to all I had marked out for 
myself.* 

* Are people always meant to do all they have marked out for 
themselves?' said Felhc, as he heard the frequent first person 
singular. 

* When it is the line of self-abnegation.* 

Felix could not help smiling, and muttering between his teeth, 
* Is it ?* Then he added, * At any rate you will come down to the 
funeral and see the old place ? * 

* No ! I will not raise false expectations to be disappointed' 
The idea of baffled expectations excited by that long white- 
faced lad 1 Even FeUx was beginning to console himself, and 
think Clement might be doing the best for them all, when they 



THE VICAR OF VALE LESTON. 



253 



were summpned to the Oratory by the evening prayer-bell. As 
good-nights were spoken at the foot of the stairs, the Vicar asked 
Felix, * Have you prevailed ?* 

* No, sir. Perhaps you will talk to him ?' 

Mr. Fulmort nodded, and Felix went to his own room. In the 
morning the Vicar told him that he had not made much impres- 
sion, but that he had actually made it matter of obedience that 
Clement should go to Vale Leston with his brother, and not 
consider his decision as made till he had thoroughly seen the 
place. 

And thus it was that Felix, in different company and different 
mood from when he had last seen his birthplace, found himself 
stopping at a little station called Church Ewe, about three miles 
short of Ewmouth ; and there a smart servant came up with his 
finger to his cockaded hat, and took possession of the two little 
black bags. 

* The beginning of greatness !' observed Clement, who was 
very benignant towards Felix's prospects, though he would accept 
none for himself, as they ensconced themselves in the great 
barouche with the pair of horses. 

Felix shook his head. He wanted to hold himself as loose as 
possible from gazing on the place as an inheritance, at the same 
time as he greatly desired to see Clement smitten with it, almost 
as much from jealousy for the old home as with a view to the 
future. 

Their way brought them in on the opposite side from the 
Ewmouth road; so that the first view was from high ground, 
whence the lovely encircling valley, the slopes of wood inclosing 
it, the purple moorland above them, the grey sheen of the river, 
the high-arched bridge, the noble church, and grand old ancestral- 
looking priory, partly veiled by fine trees, in the delicate glory of 
eariy summer, lay outstretched before them, the shimmer of the 
sea, and a few white sails far in the distance. 

That sense of the eye satisfying the heart, and being as it were 
at rest and at home, which he had felt at the sight five years 
before, and never at any other, came over Felix ; and exulting in 
the loveliness, he looked eagerly to see the effect on Clement, but 
the smooth young face was carefully guarded against relaxing, the 



Chap. 
XXXIV. 



^54 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXIV. 



light blue eye was steadily set as unmarkiiig aii3rthing. Felix was 
provoked, and then wondered whether the Deacon were like the 
Moslem who refiised to dwell at Damascus, lest he should have 
his Paradise only on earth. A little local information elicited 
nothing but civil indifferent answers, that inspired a desire to 
shake that inanimate figure. 

Driving up through the park, beauteous with chestnut blossom, 
they were shown into the library ; and there Mr. Staples came to 
them, cordially shaking hands, but, as Felix fancied, somewhat 
critically scanning that long straight coat with the little cross at 
the button-hole. 

* The Squire is tolerable,' he answered to Felix's inquiry. * I 
think it is coming out in gout He will dine with you. It does 
him good to see people.' 

* And Mrs. Underwood ?' 

* Came yesterday. Mother and brother here too. Ladies dine 
together upstairs.* 

* Are you staying here ?* 

* No ; but I am over as much as I -can. The old Squire wants 
someone, and I don't fancy leaving him too much to Smiles — ^he's 
the curate, and has been trjring to worm himself in. . Will you 
come to your rooms ? Dinner at seven.' 

To Felix it was like meeting an old friend to tread the black 
stair, and the long panelled corridors, all windows on one side, 
the other hung with portraits, the Underwood red cheeks and blue 
eyes staring round, and coarse like Marilda. Mr. Staples popped 
Clement into one wainscotted room, and left him there, but shut 
himself in with Felix. 

* So that's your clerical brother ? ' 

* An excellent hard-working devoted fellow.' 

* But very—? ' 

* Well, rather ! ' 

* And it is quite out of the question for yourself? ' 

* Entirely so. Even if I thought it right, it could not be done.' 

* I thought so, and told the Squire. Unlucky, for things are a 
good deal involved \ and you would find the vicarage income handy, 
while as for this — ^why he is a mere boy ! ' 

'So he feels himself. He is conscious of his want of 



THE VICAR OF VALE LESTON, 



255 



experience, and it would be an infinite relief to him to see it in 
good hands.' 

*Mrs. Fulbert and her mother declare that the Squire promised 
poor Fulbert to give it to her brother, Harry Shaw, whom you'll 
see here to-night ; but he swears he did no such thing ; and on 
the whole, I think Smiles would have a better chance — he's an 
obsequious chap, who has been very attentive to the old man all 
the winter, half their spy, half his toady. However, the Squire 
would never let either of them have it while there's a parson left 
with Underwood blood in his veins I * 

All the quaint old bedrooms in this passage opened one into 
the other, and Felix unlocked the door between himself and 
Clement to communicate the information received, but it ap- 
parently took no effect 

The dinner-party was dismal and incongruous enough. Obsequi- 
ous was a word that exactly depicted little, sleek, low-voiced Mr. 
Smiles, who though presiding at one end of the table, seemed 
ready to emulate Baillie M*Wheeble's posture ; and the rival 
candidate, Mr. Henry Shaw, was a red-faced, punchy man, hardly 
distinguishable in appearance or manner from his farmer kindred, 
and, as soon became apparent, with such principles as he had, 
diametrically opposed to those of Clement, who, with his refined 
countenance and form, looked as if he belonged to some other 
world. 

Mr. Underwood was wheeled in in his chair. He was not a 
man to give way, but rather to try to talk sorrow down ; and the 
curate and Mr. Staples, knowing his humour, set county politics 
going, and all joined with a fervour, not to say violence, that 
struck the brothers as unsuitable. It was more than the Squire, 
between deafness and the burthen of grief, could follow ; he grew 
abstracted, and presently rousing himself, turned to Clement to 
ask what had just passed at the other end of the table. 

* That the bribery petition will fail, sir,' repeated Clement, 
bending with the naturally kind and courteous manner due to age, 
infirmity, and sorrow, and speaking in a clear sweet modulated 
tone, that evidently struck the old man more than the words. 

* You have the family voice,' he said, looking up at him. * Why, 
you are a mere lad I You don't tell me you are in Orders ? ' 



Chap. 
XXXIV. 



256 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXIV. 



*I was ordained Deacon last summer, sir,' said Clement 
colouring deeply at having to say it loud enough to attract every- 
one's attention. 

* Ah ! eh ! And your age ? ' 

* Four-and-twenty last March.* 

* You don*t look eighteen,' said' the Squire, with that still infan- 
tine face close to him, reddening most youthfully. ' Where's your 
curacy ?' 

* At St. Matthew's, Whittingtonia,* said Clement impressively, 
and casting his eyes round, as if, thought FeUx, he were making a 
confession of faith and looking for persecution ; but, half to the 
elder brother's relief, half to his diversion, they had got into a 
world where there was no thermometer of London churches, and 
no one knew what the avowal implied Mr. Smiles asked if it 
were a Bethnal Green district ; and Mr. Shaw observed, loud 
enough for the Squire to hear, that London parishes were not the 
places for plain straightforward men, no one was looked at who 
wasn't got up like a swell to please the ladies \ and then they both 
united in rallying the youthful curate about tea-parties and pretty 
young ladies ; but Clement was as impervious to ridicule on that 
score as if his head had been cowled and tonsured, and be bore it 
well, simply and gravely replying that he was too much occupied 
to go into society. He volunteered no dangerous topic, but 
showed much more good sense and forbearance than FeUx had 
ventured to give him credit for in the curt answers he was com- 
pelled to make ; but the old gentleman did not hear these, and 
began again. 

' You've a sister married — eh?' 

* Two,' said Clement, for Felik was too far off to be audible 
and as further information was looked for, * one to Major Hare- 
wood, and the other to Sir Adrian Vanderkist' 

If Felix did for a moment feel that it sounded better than if 
they had married the butcher and the baker, Mr. Shaw took care 
to qualify the announcement with, * Sporting baronet, ain't he?' 
Got three horses at Epsom, I think 1 ' 

* What's that?' demanded Mr. Underwood. *Your sister's 
husband on the turf?* 

* I am sorry to sav he is,* said Clement gravely 



THE VICAR OF VALE LESTON. 



257 



* Not getting into scrapes ? Any danger of his going on too 
fast?' 

* I think not, Sir.' Felix felt he must shout, knowing well that 
Clement's regret was directed rather to racing in the abstract, than 
to any pecuniary peril, and for the first time feeling bound to 
defend Sir Adrian as a brother-in-law. * He is a prudent man, 
and not Ukely to go beyond his means.' 

Which was true. He was not exceeding present means. The 
evil was the fiiture of the little girls, now four in number ; but 
Clement looked reproachful at the answer he had to repeat to his 
neighbour, who relapsed into silence for a. little while, then asked 
again, *AVho said one of them had married into a marching 
regiment ?' 

Mr. Staples laughed, and came to the rescue this time. 
* Regiments never march but when young ladies marry into them ; 
but it is not true in this case. Sir. Major Harewood is in the 
Royal Engineers, and has an appointment at Woolwich. — Didn't 
you tell me so ? ' turning to Felix. ' Have you heard anything 
from him of this new gun ? ' — which gun was safely wielded through 
the remainder of the meal. 

After dinner, the Squire went back to his room, desiring Felix 
to come with him. 

He looked much older than before, and made no more effort at 
cheeriness ; as he sighed, settled himself, and signed Felix to a 
chair near him and his great fire. 

* So r he said. * So things come round ! Why did you not 
bring the nice little lad that was here before ? ' 

* He and I cannot both leave home together. Sir. He is my 
right hand in the business.' 

* You've not brought him up to your business ?' 

*I could not help it That sun-stroke put him back in his 
studies, and he could not bear to be idle.' 

* You must find some gentlemanly line for him ; not too old, eh? 
You give it up, of course, you've thought better of my proposal — 
eh?' 

* Quite impossible, Sir, thank you,' said Felix. * You are very 
kind, but I am totally unfit My education was stopped at 
sixteen.* 

VOL. II. s 



Chap. 
XXXIV. 



^58 



THE PILLARS cta THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXIV. 



* Don't tell me you can't get through what Harry Shaw there 
did ! Besides, what do we want of a scholar ? I'd rather have a 
man of sense !' 

* No Bishop would or could ordain me within the time/ 

' Staples did say the Bishops had got more crotchetty now-a- 
days. How long would they insist on for preparation ? I'd get 
little Smiles to hold it for the time.' 

* It is impossible, Sir, thank you, in every way— even if I could 
think it right* 

* Right ? It is not right the things should be separated. I've 
been cn|)pled by it all my life, and cursed my folly in setting my 
face against the Church ; and you'll hardly get the property in so 
good a condition as I did. Why, you're bookish already, and look 
like one of the cloth. Fit ! you're fitter by a long chalk than Harry 
there ! Come ! think better of it I'd not mind the cost if they 
insist on a turn at the University.' 

* Thank you. Sir,' said Felix ; * but I cannot do it It is against 
my conscience.' And as he saw that this was incomprehensible, 
he thought he had better bring forward a palpable testimony to the 
impracticability. * Besides, I must go on with my work. There 
are too many of us for me to give over.' 

* Many ! The lad hasn't been fool enough to marry ?' 

* No, no. Sir ; but there are two, a little brother and sister, at 
home, and two more at school, besides Geraldine and Lancelot' 

' All depending on you ? ' 

* The four youngest entirely so ; Geraldine earns a good deal 
with her painting, and Lance quite makes his own maintenance ; 
but I could not leave them, nor break up the home.' 

Six brothers and sisters were more than any one could adopt on 
the spot, and Mr. Underwood felt the cogency of the argument 
* Then you absolutely must keep up this confounded trade of 
yours till the breath is out of my body 1 ' 

* I hope to keep it up a long time yet. Sir,' said Felix ; * I have 
been very happy in it' 

' And — and — there's no other way ? ' 

* Certainly not. Sir, thank you. All I have is embarked in it ; 
and while things stand as they do, I should not be justiiled in 
making any change.' 



THE VICAR OF VALE LESTON. 



259 



Whatever Felix's kindred might think of his occupation, they 
were always forced to feel the dignity of his industry and indepen- 
dence. Here was this young man, under thirty, and looking 
vounger than he was, talking of half-a-dozen of young brothers 
and sisters as a reason, not for accepting help, but for being let 
alone to maintain them; and actually showing a brother, a 
clergyman, scholar, and gentleman, visibly superior to what his 
kinsman had brought there to meet him. This was not a young 
heir to adopt, foster, and command, but a man to address upon 
equal terms, and Mr. Underwood put his next suggestion with less 
of authority. * If it were not just absolute trade — ^retail, ain't it ? 
It will be against you when you come here, you see. Could not 
you get out of it into Kedge and Underwood's firm ? That would 
sound better.' 

* Yes, Sir, but I could not throw over my business without a 
great loss ; and it would be undertaking what I don't understand, 
instead of what I dp.' 

* Besides,' added the Squire, going on with his talk, ' with your 
expectations, family, place, and all, that girl of Tom's would jump 
at you r 

Felix shook his head decidedly, though unable to help a little 
inward laugh at this revival of Alda's old manoeuvre. 

* By-the-by,' continued the old gentleman, * what's become of 
your brother that Tom bred up?' 

* We knew of him last in Australia, Sir.' 

* Next to you, is he or this tall lad you have here ? ' 

* He is older than Clement' 

* Poor Tom made too much of him — eh ? Well, young men 
will be young men,' said Mr. Underwood, too full of his own 
sorrows to think about Edgar ; ^ but they come round at last :' and 
therewith he fell into a talk about his own son, whose illness and 
death he proceedeid to dwell upon, as he found he had a kind and 
attentive auditor ; and this lasted till the butler came to wheel 
him off to his bed. 

Felix and Clement paid an early visit to the church next 
morning, and found it in a course of being muffled in black. 
* Seventy-five yards there allys was for every Underwood on * em,', 
said Abednego Tripp, who had become much more shaky and' 

s 2 



Chap. 
XXXIV. 



z6o 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXIV. 



feeble, had resigned his market-boat to Kerenhappuch's husband, 
and was hobbling about the church in a mixed, but on the whole a 
pleasant and exulting, frame of mind, by no means partaking of 
the intense disgust with which Clemqnt beheld the sanctuary 
invaded by the paraphernalia of human woe. 

Dr. May, unasked, brought Bernard over to the funeral, which 
was at twelve o'clock. Neither the father nor the widow attended 
it; but the incongruity of Edward Underwood's sons acting as 
chief mourners was prevented by the nearer claims of the Shaw 
brothers-in-law. The farmer tenants came; but the lack of 
neighbouring clergy and even gentry struck the brothers in contrast 
with the overflowing numbers who had flocked to their father's 
grave, so far from his ancestral home, showing how much more the 
man can be than the position. 

Bernard was 'staring about him with little endeavour for 
appearances ; and at the first moment that speech was possible, 
even while the hat-bands were coming off, he looked up in the 
face of Clement with open eye§, and said, * My eyes 1 this is no 
end of a place ! Is it what is to come to us ?' Clement hushed 
him seriously and vigorously, but without much effect * Did you 
know 'twas like this ?* he persisted, gazing round. 

* I never thought about it. Hush !' 

' Why, 'tis twice as jolly a house as Abbotstoke ! And the 
woods ! And the river ! One might shoot every day, and fish tlie 
rest, and be always boating besides !' exclaimed Bernard, enthu- 
siastically, but happily under his breath. * And ain't there a hunter 
worth ;^i2o here ? Where is he, Clem ?' 

* How should I know ?' 

* You've been here all night and this morning, haven't you ?' 
said Bernard, as if he had not thought even Tina capable of such 
indifference. ' I'll get down to the stables, and find out' 

While Clement was trying to stop him, the summons to a 
lugubrious luncheon did so more effectually. There Bernard had 
the opportunity of fraternizing with a Shaw nephew of his own 
age, ' and none of the malice of his seniors, who imparted the 
melincholy fact that the hunter-colt was sold, but undertook to 
show off the stables ; but fate was too strong for Bear, he was 
captured by his eldest brother, and told that while Dr. May's 



THE VICAR OF VALE LESTON. 



261 



horse was coming round, Mr. Underwood would like to see 
him. 

The wish was far from mutual, and Bernard was as sulky as his 
namesake; but sulkiness might pass on such an occasion for 
decorous solemnity ; and Bernard was always one of the show 
specimens — a big, well-grown, straight-limbed boy, with a hand- 
some Underwood face, not of the girlishly rosy tinting of his 
brother's, but glowing with a hardy healthy sunburnt hue, and he 
could not but answer with a sort of glum awe-struck civility the 
few questions asked him, as to his age, and where he was at 
school, and then whether he had ever been rabbitting. 

* Only once ;' and Bernard's face lost its sulkiness. * Marilda's 
gone and let her shooting !' 

* And you like it ?* 

Bernard's lips only said * yes,* but his blue eyes danced. 

* Well, some of these days, you must come over and have a day 
with the keeper, when your brother is settled here.* 

The eager face of anticipation fell, and out came at unawares, 

* But that won't be till you are dead;' and then the boy began 
colouring to the ears. 

* No, no, I don't mean this brother ; but what's his name — ^the 
young parson? When he is here, you must come over. And 
here — * As the Doctor came in to take leave, Bernard found in 
his hand *tip' that exceeded even the great days of Ferdinand's 
munificence ! 

He sprang out to Clement, who was standing in the porch. * Oh ! 
I say, Clem, what a splendiferous go this is !' 
Again, all he got was a scandalized hush. 

* I don't mean that He told me himself! I'm to come over 
to shoot rabbits, and all that is delicious, when you are a clergjrman 
here ! Hurrah !' 

* Hold your tongue, Bernard,' said Clement, with a voice of 
subdued impatience, * and don't talk nonsense.* 

* But you are going to be a clergyman here,' persisted Bernard. 

• He said so.' 

* That does not make it the fact' 

* Clem, you'd never be so viciously spiteful as not to come ! 
Think of the rabbits and the salmon, and a licence by-and-by !' 



Chap. 
XXXIV. 



l62 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXIV, 



' Come, Bernard/ said Dr. May's cheery voice behind ; then, as 
he shook hands with Clement, * You must find your way over to 
Stoneborough when you are settled here. Our church is a sort of 
rival to yours/ 

* Not mine,' protested Clement ; but the Doctor was in a hurry, 
and was off. Business was to be done with the family lawyer, and 
FeUx got a hint that he might be wanted after a time, so he be- 
took himself to a nook in the cloister, redolent with old memories, 
and began a letter to Mr. Audley. Clement, as he really believed 
with malice prepense, put himself entirely out of reach by starting 
off for a walk with Mr. Smiles, who, detecting that the London 
clergyman's mind was far from made up to bury himself in a dull, 
secluded, straggling country parish, had kindly volunteered to 
show him the beauties of the scenery. 

Nearly two hours had passed, when a tall shadow came across 
the arch, and Clement's low eager voice asked, * Have you any 
money about you ?' 

* Just about enough to get home with. Why?' 

* How near is Ewmouth?' 

* Nearly four miles. What are you after?' 

* I can do it before dinner ;' and the long legs seemed about to 
move off. 

. * Stay, Clement ! What ?' 

* I must raise enough to get a bottle of port. There's a child 
sinking in typhus. Don't detain me, Felix. I find there's no help 
for it. I must have this place,' he added, as if throwing a tub to 
the whale to effect his escape. 

' Stop, ask for some here.' 

* No use. Squire forbids all giving in that quarter.' 
' What do you mean to do ?' 

* I must dispose of — of — of— Well, it must be this,' touching 
his little cross, Ferdinand's gift, and nearly his favourite possession. 

* Come! It won't do to make your ddbut at Ewmouth by 
disposing of your jewelry. I left myself a margin of half-a- 
crown, and if we walk from the station, that will save two shillings 
more.' 

* That will do,' said Clement. * Thank you. Fee, you shall 
have it again. I had given all I had about me in the other hovel 



THE VICAR OF VALE LESTON, 



263 



The woman is waiting in the churchyard I'll send her off, and 
then tell you.' 

FeUx accompanied him through the beautiful summer garden to 
the rough rugged churchyard, where a lean woman in tattered 
drab-coloured garments by no means accorded with the para- 
disaical notion of Vale Leston. Her distress was so genuine that 
she scarcely thanked Clement ; but assuring him she could now 
get what she wanted, she walked oflf. 

Clement sighed, and looked up at the great massive church, not 
with Felix's pitjring love, but like a mighty burthen. 

' Well,- Clem ! ' 

* Well ! I see it must be done.* 

* I am very glad.' 

* I am sure I am very sorry,* said Clement, with a simplicity new 
in him. 

Before any more could pass, a servant came in search of them to 
summon them to Mr. Underwood's room. He looked worn and 
sorrowful, but there was a certain look of pleasure at the entrance 
of the two young men ; and he made a sort of introduction of 
them to the lawyer, Mr. Wilder, a I^ondon soUcitor, then turning to 
Felix, he once more asked if he still declined all idea of eventually 
taking the living. 

* Certainly I do, thank you, Sir.' 

* So,' said Mr. Underwood, * as is only just, the offer is passed 
on to your brother.' 

Clement bowed his head, colouring crimson, and the tears 
coming into his eyes, as with a trembUng lip he answered, * Thank 
you, Sir; I will do my best, God helping me.' 

It was curious how this weight of responsibility was extin- 
guishing self-consciousness, and making a man of him. The tone 
of his reply seemed to surprise both Squire and lawyer ; and the 
former said, in an old man's tone of encouragement, * That is well 
No one can say more. Now give us your full name, that we may 
get on with the formalities.' 

* Edward Clement Underwood, B.A.,St. Cadoc's.' 
' Edward?' 

* It is my first name, but I have never been so called.' 

' Edward ! Strange it should so come about 1 Well, you may 



Chap. 
XXXIV. 



264 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXIV. 



do pretty well here. Small tithes commuted for ;£^42o — (Rather a 
contrast, thought Felix, to the recent difficulty of raising a few 
shillings !) — a fair provision for a young man ; if you are content 
not to launch out, nor be in a hurry to marry/ 

* Certainly iiot,' said Clement, with an emphasis that made 
everybody look up to see whether he showed any tokens of 
having met with a disappointment in love ; but if his cheeks were 
redder than usual, lip and eye were steady and resolute enough. 

' I hope not,* proceeded his patron : * it is the worst thing a 
young man can do to get his neck into the noose before he has 
had time to look about him. And there's the Vicarage — ^been 
used to enlarge our stable room— will have to be rebuilt altogether ; 
so you had best let your horse keep your residence for the present, 
and come and look after the old man. I would not be much 
of a burden to you ; but this is a big house, and it is getting 
lonesome.' 

* I will do whatever I can to be a comfort to you, Sir,' said 
Clement earnestly. * It is very kind in you, and I will certainly 
come first to you. Only, Sir, I ought to warn you that I have been 
bred up in- a very stringent school of principles, and that if 
I come here, I shall feel it my duty to do my best to carry 
them out.' 

Mr. Underwood smiled at the lawyer. * How exactly boys get 
the trick of their father. I could think this twenty years back! 
Well, changes for the worse there cofCt be ! Ungrateful set of 
drunken poaching rascals as ever lived ! And as to the church, 
what notions you may bring there won't do me much harm, so 
long as you don't bring it about your ears. Only, look you, Edward, 
a word in your ear. Don't let Jane — Mrs. Fulbert, I mean- 
cajole you into doing up the Vicarage for her.' 

* Very well. Sir,' said Clement dreamily. 

' You had better stay on a few days and look about you ; I'd 
send you over to see the Bishop.* 

* No, Sir, thank you, I must get back to-morrow. I have little 
enough time to prepare for my Ordination, but I will come down 
as soon after as Mr. Fulmort can make it convenient to spare me.' 

* Ay, and little Smiles will see to the duty meantime ; but I say, 
Edward, you are inexperienced, and he is a dirty little dog 



THE VICAR OF VALE LESTON, 



26; 



Don't let him expect anything from you till you've read in. He's 
got his quarter, and 'tis the churchwarden's business to provide.' 

Felix hoped other people did not find Clement's face so 
intelligible as he did when this turned out to be the warning to 
inexperience. There was little more to be done, and the con- 
ference broke up to give the Squire time to rest before dinner. 

* And now, my dear Vicar,' said Felix, linking his arm into his 
brother's, and leading him to a walk beneath a wisteria-covered 
wall, ' let me hear what brought you to this laudable resolution.' 

* I wish it may be laudable,' said poor Clement, brushing away 
a couple of great tear-drops ; * I only know I have taken leave of all 
comfort or ease of mind for hfe, and I suppose that may be right 1' 

* I thought,' said Felix, a little hurt, * that my father's objection 
to this place was its perfect ease.' 

* A good deal has gone to the bad since his time,' said Clement, 

* and well it may ! I could think of nothing but the traffic in 
Babylon the Great of " the souls of men," and wonder whether T 
was sharing in it ! Not a word as to my fitness or unfitness, not 
an attempt at inquiry ! I might be the veriest disgrace to my 
Orders for what they cared, so long as my name is Underwood !' 

' And, Edward 1' said Felix, * I can't but be touched to see how 
the poor old man feels it an act of restitution. It is the best 
he knows, Clem, his first step, and I am glad you have not baulked 
him of it' 

* It is a vicious and rotten system altogether,' said Clement, 

* and I am not sure how far one is justified in submitting to it' 

' And now, without going into the question of lay-patronage, 
what brought you to submit to it ?' 

* I'll tell you, Felix. I set out to walk with Smiles, to see the 
place, and set Shaw so far on his way home. We went on beyond 
the village street, where all looks smooth and fair — all roses and 
gable-ends — like the model place you fancy it, and maybe it was in 
Father's time. On by the little river — ^ 

* The Leston. Isn't it beautiful ? ' 

* It is like places I saw in Wales. Well, there is another little 
ravine running down to meet that — ^very wild — a show place.' 

* Blackstone GuUey. Isn't theie a quarry ?' 

* Indeei\ there is ; and such a set of hovels round it, nm up in a 



Chap. 
XXXIV. 



26G 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXIV. 



hollow without a notion of health or comfort I It seems the 
demand for the stone is micertain ; so these wretched quarrymen 
are half their time poaching and pilfering, a villainous ferocious lot, 
that do all the harm in the neighbourhood — ^in fact, the Squire flew 
into a rage at the very name. He had forbidden anything from 
his house to be given to them ; and even the Miss Hepbums were 
afraid to go among them. What are you laughing at, Felix?* 

* Because I see why Mr. Smiles took you that way. Go oil' 

' He took us to the best point of view, but told us we had better 
not go down, as typhus was raging there. I offered to wait if he 
had any one to visit ; and behold ! it was against the principles of 
both to go unless they were sent for. Mr . Shaw said it was 
making oneself too common, and Mr. Smiles had to consider Mrs. 
Smiles and the children. By that time we had been seen, and a 
woman saUied out to speak to him ; and would you believe it, he 
tried to warn her off with " You see I have gentlemen with me ! 
I always tell you to go to Mr. Tripp !" Then it struck me that I 
need not stand on the etiquette our Vicar is always so particular 
about, since it is nobody's parish just now, and I had the offer ; 
so I offered to go and see what she wanted Smiles said a 
good deal about the deceitfulness of the women, and the danger 
of venturing when the men were at home, as if one had never 
been down a court in Whittingtonia.' 

* And was it very bad ?' 

* Bad, yes. Except that there's clear air and water outside, it is 
as miserable as anything I ever saw in town, and more squalid and 
savage. Four huts with cases of typhus ! Though after all, it is 
not worse than our district is in the winter ; and it is by tens, while 
that is by hundreds. Moreover, Ewmouth is getting into this 
parish, building fast on this side. When I saw and heard those 
two men, and knew the place would be turned over to one or other 
of them, I could not leave it to such a fate !' 

* Quite right ; and not at all what the curate expected.' 

* I had thought,' continued Clement, ' that such clergy had become 
extinct ; but I suppose nothing of a better stamp would have put 
up with the poor man we buried to-day. I had imagined the choice 
only lay between me and some one who, if without ray advantages, 
would be superior in experience and weight \ but now I see the 



THE VICAR OF VALE LESTON, 



267 



alternative : it is plain that it is a call, though why — ^why it should 
have come to me, I cannot think.' 

' Perhaps,* said Felix, * because we are especially bound to fight 
against the evil our family has allowed to accumulate/ 

* At my age, and all alone ! I say, FeHx,' after a pause, * can 
one get tiie key of the church ? ' 

* The door into the cloister used not to be kept locked,* said 
Felix, turning in that direction j and then, struck by the loveliness 
of the lights and shadows, and the banksias trailing over the cloister 
tracery, he could not help exclaiming, * There's no place like it ! 
You will grow very fond of it, Clem ! * 

* I dare say I shall,* said Clement, to whose eyes the beauty 
seemed to go for nothing, and who was quite past his usual heed 
to keeping up his dignity with his brothers ; ' I dare say I shall 
when I have worked here a little while ; but I had rather have had 
the dingiest cell in the clergy-house and Fred Somers. Just as I 
had got back, when we thought we should have such a time of it — 
working together there, for life perhaps ! * 

* You might have him for a curate.* 

* Fred I He'd never come to " easy duty in a romantic country 
and ehgible neighbourhood,** * indignantly quoted Clement ; * and 
for my part, with only a population of eight hundred, if I were to 
set up a curate, I should just give myself over to be a fat, double- 
chinned, easy-going incumbent 1 * 

* You're a good way from that,* said Felix, looking at the tall 
slight being by his side ; * but I think you are right I am as 
sorry for you as can be, Clem, when I think of your pleasant 
evenings at the clergy-house, and what it will be with that poor old 
man ; but you see he ought to be cared for as well as the parish, 
and there is no one but you who can do it* 

* I must try 1 ' said Clement, with something of a gasp. 

* Well,' said Felix, who had by this time reached the door, * I do 
feel obliged to you, Clement This helps me immensely.' 

It was a great consolation to Clement that one person at least 
did not congratulate him on the preferment that weighed on him 
so sorely ; but after he had spent some time alone in the church, 
he had mastered himself, and was quite satisfactory all the evening. 
Their dinner companions were the widow and her mother. The 



Chap. 
XXXIV. 



268 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXIV. 



former did not look very much crushed, though she carried a large 
pocket-handkerchief; and her mother declared tliat nothing could 
have brought her down but her desire to be acquainted with her 
cousins. Felix could not help thinking of the pic-nic ; and before 
long he perceived the drama that was being enacted. Her great 
object was evidently to stay on, and continue the ruler of the 
Priory ; and Mr. Underwood was equally desirous to get her, not 
only out of the house, but out of the village ; but he could not 
quite tell her so on the day of the funeral, and hints neither of 
them would take. Then she fastened upon Clement, and dis- 
coursed to him about her charities, and her regrets that during her 
dear Fulbert's long decline she could do so little ; only she knew 
things were in such excellent hands with the Miss Hepbums, good 
old ladies, perfectly devoted, treasures for any parish; but for 
herself — she was only too much at liberty now, she should be 
delighted to go the round of the parish with him, and introduce 
him to her own peculiar pets 1 

Clement could not snub direct ; but he only bowed, he did not 
commit himself; only in all simplicity he did ask about these 
charities, and only succeeded in raising a mist of words, in which 
the desirableness of not destroying self-dependence, and the 
pauperizing tendency of liberality, were the prominent ideas. 

Clement ventured a question about Blackstone GuUey ; but Mrs. 
Underwood hurriedly cautioned him under her breath not to say a 
word about it before the Squire, it excited him so fearfully — ^the 
people were such desperate poachers and thieves, and did such 
wanton mischief! They were evidently viewed as quite out of the 
pale of humanity. 

Little did the lady imagine that they were the chief attraction to 
the Vicar-elect ! 

The brothers had to be off so early the next morning, that they 
made their farewells that night Mrs. Underwood hospitably told 
Clement they would be better acquainted ; but when he took leave 
with the old Squire, his hand was held fast, while the broken eager 
voice entreated, ' You'll soon be back — ^you'll come soon ? You 
shall have the study, and any rooms in the house you like. — Been 
down to the stables? Just say which saddle-horse you like best; 
ril have him kept for you/ 



THE VICAR OF VALE LESTON. 



269 



* Thank you, Sir, but I am a very good walker/ (Felix was 
glad he did not sa/ he could not ride — a degeneracy in an 
Underwood that plainly had not occurred to the Squire.) 

* Nonsense ! Can't get about in this country without a horse. 
Mind, I didn't mean that you should keep it for yourself. Take a 
look, if you have not yet, and say which of the two.* 

* The quietest ! ' exclaimed Clement, in a tone nearly of entreaty, 
diverting to his elder brother, who had had enough pony-back 
before his eighth year, with a little subsequent refreshment on Mr. 
Audley's horse, to give him a pitying disdain for anxieties on that 
score. 

* Eh? You are a steady-going parson— don't want a showy 
beast ? Thaf s as young parsons are now-a-days. Well, you shall 
have the chestnut, very good to ride or drive. Write, I say, as 
soon as you can fix your day. You might see the Bishop in town. 
Only donV lowering his voice, * leave me long alone witii Jane.' 

Just after the hot water had been brought to the brothers' 
rooms the next morning, there was a simultaneous knocking at the 
door of communication, and then an equally simultaneous turning 
of the handles, which was of course ineffectual, till FeHx let go, 
and Clement got it open ; and they stood laughing at each other, 
each holding an envelope, one addressed to F. Underwood, Esquire, 
the other to the Reverend Edward Underwood, each containing a 
cheque for ;£^io, and scrawled on the flap of each — * To cover 
expenses of journey. F. U.' 

* Expenses of journey — poor old man !' said Felix. * It would 
go some way to a special train ! * 

* I suppose this is myself,' said Clement 

* Ah, you'll have to resign yourself to be Edward for the rest of 
your days.' 

* Do you mean to take it ? ' 

* Impossible not to let him have the pleasure of it Poor man, 
depend upon it he is wishing it had been my father all the time. 
And it might have been — ^ FeHx's face quivered and contracted. 
* No, it won't do to think of that But, Clem, look here — ^we 
won't exactly walk from Paddington; but deducting the one 
pound five that this really has cost me, you shall take the rest of 
mine for Blackstone Gulley.' 



Ckap. 
XXXIV. 



! 



270 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXIV. 



* It must have cost you more.* 

* No, for I was coming to town any way. Did I not tell you 
that I am to meet poor Edgar's creditors on Cherry's behalf, and 
settle with them ? ' 

* Poor Cherry ! It has been a noble thing for her to have 
carried out, but one cannot but feel it wasted/ 

* No,* said Felix, * she will never feel it so. Whatever she may 
do for the future, she will be able to feel that she has been just 
before she was generous. Remember, she will have sent our name 
home again cleared of debt. I am proud to owe that to her ! 
Now, whichever of us is ready first must write the old man a 
grateful note, and we will both sign it* 

* Stay, Felix I I can't have you giving this to my people. I 
shall have plenty.* 

* In time, but I don't expect you will have much in hand for 
some time ; and if the Squire is so furious against these people, 
you won't like to ask him. Besides, they are my people, in a way, 
as well as yours ; and if this is really the earnest of my inlieritance, 
I should like it to go to them.' 



THE OLD SQUIRE AND THE NEW, 



271 



CHAPTER XXXV. 

THE OLD SQUIRE AND THE NEW. 

* I remember, I remember, 

The house where I was bom, 
The little window where the sun 
Came peeping in at mom.' 

T. Hood, 

So it was that the Reverend Edward Clement Underwood became 
Vicar of Vale Leston Abbas ; and as Geraldine observed, when 
she saw his whole worldly possessions waiting for the omnibus, he 
probably carried with him less personal property than any enter- 
ing incumbent on the rolls of fame. All was contained in one box, 
one portmanteau, and one black bag, and chiefly consisted in the 
more clerical of his father's books, his pocket-communion plate in 
the well-worn case, and a few gifts from St Matthew's, not un- 
accompanied with cautions on their use. 

He spent a few days at home ; and Mr. Bevan, who after his five 
years' holiday had just come home, not only called on him, but 
asked him to preach and to dine, including Felix in the latter 
invitation ; but both were impossible, as Clement was due at Vale 
Leston on the Saturday. Thenceforth his family heard little of 
him. He had never been much of a letter-writer, except when he 
sent a sort of essay on Church affairs to direct the Pursuivant, and 
even these nearly ceased, so that, as Lance said, there was no 
guessing whether he viewed the squire as the wicked world or as a 
sick old sinner. And with Lance, Clement had had a sort of 



Chap. 
XXXV. 



272 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXV. 



passage-at-arms. He wanted much to have sent him to the 
University, and was much vexed when Lance for many reasons 
declined j but the oflfer and refusal were unknown — by the wish of 
both parties — to the rest of the family. Clement said it was all 
indolence, and passion for that organ of Ferdinand Travis's, which, 
now it had come at last, had proved transcendently well worth 
waiting for. Clement viewed it with some jealousy, and predicted 
that Lance would rue his decision ; and Lance could not help 
resenting what was unjust in the accusation and prognostic, the 
more for what was just in it To be sure, his displeasure went no 
further than the resumption of the impudent old name of Tina, but 
from Lance that implied much. 

Clement as a beneficed clergyman was something tangible; 
otherwise people were rather disappointed to find Mr. Underwood 
in his natural place, looking just as usual, and though to one or 
two close inquirers he allowed that some property might come to 
him some day, he declared that it made no difference. And when 
people found no blunders in their accounts, no failures in their 
serials, and no neglect of their parcels, they left off thinking he 
must necessarily be demoralised ; and though the Tribune sneered 
more than ever at the organ of a bloated aristocracy, the world in 
general soon forgot, and then disbelieved, that their attentive 
bookseller had any * expectations.' 

Indeed, Felix himself had made up his mind, as he told his 
home sister and brother, that the Squire had still many years to 
live, and that the inheritance was only to be viewed as a dis- 
pensation from laying by for old age, a point on the duty of which 
he had never decided, having in truth nothing to lay by. The 
interests he now had in the place, and the security of a welcome, 
satisfied his affection for it ; and he was too much at home in his 
present occupation to feel impatient to have it ended. 

Geraldine found the waiting a greater trial. Longings for the 
green grass, the purple moorland, the sparkling river, and broad 
sea would come over her ; and she would wonder whether the best 
years of their lives were to be spent in the Bexley streets, where 
she could not help fancying the smoke of the potteries more ap- 
parent than ever ; and whether Felix were condemned to stand 
behind a counter till he had grown too old to begin a new life. 



THE OLD SQUIRE AND THE NMW. 



2n 



Then she blamed herself, and tried to struggle the thought away ; 
but there was to her an absolute oppression in Bexley summer air, 
and an iincongeniality in the dull ugly surroundings, that made 
content an almost impossible achievement; and the anticipation 
assuredly did not make her happier for the present 

She declared however that Angela was wholesome to her, as a 
tipsy Helot was to the Spartans. The girl was intoxicated with the 
prospect when she suddenly plunged iilto it on coming home for the 
summer holidays. It seemed nearly as good as her intended Duke, 
and she talked continually of the horses she would ride, the tours she 
would take, the balls she would frequent, while Felix would drily 
build up her castles to some such manifestly outrageous height as 
to make them topple down headlong with her. 

She was not the only Helot Madame Tanneguy's sympathetic 
excitement knew no bounds, and she clasped her hands with a 
gesture learnt in France, as she rejoiced in Mr. Underwood being 
reinstated, and never would hear or understand that there was no 
re in the case. She would be enthusiastic ; she would drop in on 
Sundays, and question Felix point by point about that magnificent 
place ; and it must be owned that he liked sympathy well enough 
not to answer her as ungraciously as Cherry would have approved. 
She even tried to bring little Gustave, that he and Theodore might 
grow accustomed to one another ; but in this she never succeeded, 
for Theodore having learnt that he must neither scream at nor 
attack the little Frenchman, never saw him approach without 
retreating to Sibby in the kitchen, or his brothers in the office. 

But Lady Price's demonstrations were much more amusing. 
She had come home a good deal subdued and more on her guard, 
and she could take advantage of the former Miss Underwood 
having been so fully occupied to excuse her past neglect She 
asked Felix to dinner, and his sisters to croquet parties indefatigably, 
and tried to get up musical entertainments which must lead to his 
singing with Miss Caroline. What to do was a perplexity. Felix 
did not like to refuse altogether overtures from the Rectory, for he 
had a warm feeling for poor Mr. Bevan himself; but the horrible 
penance of singing with Miss Price he backed out of pitilessly on 
the score of want of time ; and as to the garden parties, Geraldine 
hated them, and would have declined them altogether if Angela 

VOL. II. T 



Chap. 
XXXV. 



*74 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXV. 



had not been wild to go ; and Felix and Wilmet both decreed that 
it would be better for the child to accustom her to a little society 
than to leave her pining and raving for amusement within her reach. 
So as long as Angela was at home, Cherry consented to go to the 
Rectory croquet, and horribly dull she found it Lady Price used 
demonstratively to inquire after her sister Lady Vanderkist, and 
how Mr. Clement was getting on, and would introduce her to two 
or three of the lookers on ; but they were not apt to be of the 
mould who brought out Cherry's powers of conversation ; and she 
never got on well with any one but the old Miss Crabbe who had 
once brought Stella home, and who knew the Vale Leston neigh- 
bourhood, and could tell her a good deal about it 

Wilmet had never come home to institute her reformation. 
John's occupation did not give him much leisure, and his mother's 
kindred sent him so urgent an invitation, that he felt the more 
obliged to carry his wife among them, because it was an act of 
forgiveness for his marrying her. One of his mother's sisters had 
died, leaving him her portion, and the survivor yearned after poor 
Lucy's son and his little boy. So Wilmet was taken amongst the 
Oglandby dan, and took all the gentlemen by storm by her beauty, 
and all the ladies by her domesticity and good sense ; and John 
found himself so taken up with business connected with the bequest, 
that no time could be made for either of the homes. Besides, it 
was greatly suspected that as a mother Wilmet was afraid of 
Theodore and his jealousy, for she never offered to run down 
without her husband. Indeed, he was carrying on a hard struggle 
to keep up to his work through the inveterate remains of neuralgic 
suffering left by his accident, and only those who stayed any time 
in the house knew how brave an effort were his industry and 
cheerfulness. 

Robina had a capital situation as second governess in a large 
household, where she seemed very happy ; while William Hare- 
wood continued to win prosperity and honour at Oxford, ending 
by obtaining a first class, and becoming a student of Christchurch. 
Who would have augured tiie like of Bill ? 

The most visible effects of the heirship were big hampers of 
game, which appeared at intervals all through the autumn and 
winter; and Felix did thoroughly enjoy the carrying over the 



THE OLD SQUIRE AND THE NEW. 



27S 



choicest spoils therefrom to Marshlands, where they gave a great 
deal of pleasure and a certain kind of pride. Now that Mr. 
Froggatt had seen no symptoms of the turning of Felix's head, he 
began to believe in his prospects, and to be a good deal divided 
between regard for him and for the business. 

Bernard was the one who profited most by the present state of 
things. Not only did he go over twice, for a day, from Stone- 
borou^ to Vale Leston, . but he spent a week there at the 
beginning of the Christmas holidays, chiefly in the society of the 
gamekeeper. So supremely happy was he, and so brilliant were 
his descriptions to Madame Tanneguy, that by the time they had 
gone through a Russian scandal process among her confidantes 
Vale Leston had swelled to the dimensions of Windsor Castle ; 
and Lance and Angel were incited to prepare for her espedal 
benefit a parody of * Bolton Abbey in the Olden Time,' with 
Clement in the character and costume of the Abbot, presiding 
over the like profusion of game. 

Not much more could be got out of the boy. He would talk 
indeed plentifully, but it was all of rabbits and ferrets, pheasants 
and ducks, horses and dogs. He evidently viewed himself as the 
Underwood who alone could do his duty by the fercR naturce of 
the estate; and though his magniloquence was not perfectly 
trustworthy, the elders gathered from it that the old Squire had 
really teen pleased to find in one of the brothers the sportsman 
tastes he could appreciate, and had encouraged the boy by telling 
him all manner of hunting anecdotes, and letting him have the 
run of the woods. Bernard was small enough to have no dignity 
to lose, and had galloped on the ponies turned out to grass \ but 
Felix had a curiosity to learn how Clement got on with the 
chestnut, a question which set the school-boy into fits of laughing. 
* Oh ! I believe he sticks on somehow now, but just like a pair 
of compasses, you know. Joe says if he has been spilt • once he 
has been spilt forty times. He knows by the mud on his clothes, 
you see ; but Mr. Eddard, as every one calls him, never says one 
word about it, but stalks in just as upright as' ever, and only once 
or twice they thought he was a little stiff.' 

*But does he go on all the same?' asked Cherry, rather 
alarmed. 

T 3 



Chap. 
XXXV. 



zjS 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXV 



* Oh yes, 'tis dogged as does it ; and one can't get about there 
without riding; such roads, and mud, and water-courses up to 
your knees. Yes, and Joe doesn't think he's been off for more 
than a month now.' 

* Hurrah ! ' said Lance, * I always knew Clem had lots of pluck 
in his own way ! And does he drive ? ' 

' He drives out the Squire whenever it is fine enough,' 

Much more could not be made out. The boy had, as Cherry 
said, a fine singleness of eye. The game was in full focus, all the 
rest very dim and obscure. Yes, Clem had a jolly room enough. 
What he did, or whether he went out much, this deponent knew 
not, only that he believed the church bell rang at eight — he 
thought Clem rang it himself. Dinner was at seven, uncommon 
joBy — a capital cellar — and he was with difficulty called back 
from an imposing enumeration of wines, to say that Mrs. Fulbert 
was certainly not in the house. Mr. Underwood seldom left his 
room till the middle of the day, and then, if he were well and the 
weather fine, Clement attended his airing, then left him to sleep, 
and after dinner played piquet or cribbage with him. When once 
Mr. Staples dined there, Bernard had taken a hand at whist, of 
which he was inordinately proud. 

That was all that could be gathered with any certainty, though 
Bernard did nothing but groan for Vale Leston whenever he was 
not skating. They had learnt that the Vicar of Vale Leston 
could ride and play at cards, and they might make the most of 
that. 

Nor did they hear more till the next April, when Felix received 

the following note : — 

Vale Leston Priory, April 29th. 
My dear Felix, 

If you can get away I wish you would come down without loss of 
time. Just after Bernard left us, Mr. Underwood got a chill, and has had a 
good deal of suppressed gout. The doctor thinks ill of him. I find he never 
has been a Communicant. Latterly, the sense of wrong done to my father has 
held him back. It is not satisfactory now, and I long for a priest of experience, 
but I must do my best, *and time and faculty seem failing. Your presence and 
participation would be a comfort Can you run down ? I will have the 4.4° 
train met on Monday. 

Your affectionate Brother, 

E. C. U. 



THE OLD SQUIRE AND THE NEW, 



vir 



At 4.40 accordingly, Felix beheld a sporting-looking dog-cart of 
varnished wood, containing a long black figure holding a very big 
chestnut horse, and stretching out an eager hand to grasp his 
brother's. * That's right, Felix 1 I'm glad you are come I ' 

* Is he worse ? * 

*He has been changing rapidly since I wrote to you. Page 
does not know what to think of him. I've been writing to ask 
Dr. May to come over to-morrow,' 

* You look fagged, Clem. Does the nursing fall on you ? ' 

* We have a nurse now ; and he seemed disposed to sleep, so I 
thought I might come and meet you,' said Clement, who not only 
had the heavy eyes of broken rest, but altogether had lost the 
childish contour of face, and acquired the stamp of thought and 
reality. 

* The daughter-in-law is no help, I suppose ? * 

Clement laughed, but rather sadly. * They had had a great row 
over poor Fulbert's properties before I came on the scene at all. 
She never was anything but a grievance to him. He meant his 
son to have had Marilda ; and when that failed, consented to pay 
his debts and let him marry this person, on his yielding to take 
Holy Orders — ^a miserable business, and he feels it so now. I 
have tried to bring about a better state of feeling, but I can't feel 
my way. I think there is more good in her than he gives her 
credit for; and he fancies she blinds me, and has as good as 
ordered me never to speak of her again.' 

*Then he has quite adopted you ?' 

* Oh, yes, he is very kind to me,' said Clement warmly, and 
from what he went on to say, it was clear that he had grown fond 
of his charge, and found it far less of a burthen than he had 
expected, though he must have been often crossed, and could 
have met with little congeniality. 

He had been left quite unfettered in action as a clergyman; 
indeed, the Squire had supported him under the growls of a few 
malcontents, and though this was chiefly on the ground that State 
must stand by Church, Underwood by Underwood, and that 
tenants had no business to think, still it was efiective. The only 
quarrels had been caused by the young Vicar's peacemaking 
endeavours towards the widow^ his proclivities towards the I 



Chap. 
XXXV. 



278 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXV. 



pariahs of Blackstone GuUey, and his backwardness to enter into 
county gaieties. 

* Young men were hardly to be trusted if they were not like 
young men/ argued the Squire ; and he was vexed if he found 
Clement avoiding a party or refusing a dinner on the score of 
parish engagements. Indeed, an invitation from a sporting 
nobleman of a questionable repute was declined at the cost of 
such offence, that Clement had thought he should have to 
reconstruct the Vicarage, if not repair at once to sleep in the hay- 
loft thereof; but after one evening's storm, the subject had never 
been renewed. To have had more of the animal and less of the 
spiritual in his young inmate would have been pleasanter and 
more comprehensible to the old gentleman ; and he had begun by 
a certain distrust of what the mihtary comrades of his youth and 
the hunting associates of his later years would have declared 
sanctimonious hypocrisy in so young a man. The first offer — as 
a mere matter of course — to read prayers to him had been 
received with a snarl, and a dry 'Thank you, I'll let you know 
when I require your services.' 

Clement had desisted, and strengthened by the Vicar's counsel, 
had waited to feel his way and win his ground, by many a 
reading of the newspaper, many a game at piquet, many a 
prose on the Shaw misdeeds and on county politics, and by 
what the poor old man had never known before — ^the genuine 
filial kindness of reverence for age and infirmity, without interested 
adulation. 

After all, it was the attacks on the young parson's new-fangled- 
ness that first led to discussions that died away only to be re- 
newed again, revealing queer prejudices and conclusions based 
on nearly total ignorance — the ignorance of a careless son of a 
careless household sixty years back, and since alienated from all 
religious teaching by the consciousness of one act of injustice in 
requital of unusual forbearance and generosity. 

Clement felt as though he had done nothing, and that the 
opportunity was fast fleeting. Where he had but stirred the 
waters, he thought that a man like Mr. Fulmort might have 
produced real effect ; and he was downcast and humble at his own 
inefficiency, though he allowed that no stranger would probably 



THE OLD SQUIRE AND THE NEW, 



279 



have been permitted to go so far as he, a youth, an Underwood, 
and a son of the injured cousin's. 

This, Felix's third arrival, was unlike the. former ones. He had 
DO need to watch his brother's countenance for tokens of interest ; 
Clement was the one at home, and with his heart in the place, 
though still he looked as if he thought there was irrelevance in the 
cry of loving joy that broke from Felix at first sight of the valley 
hi its beauty. The moor, the wood, the river, and the sea, did 
not go for much with the Vicar — it was the people he thought of, 
and the damages and deficiencies . of the Church struck him 
infinitely more than the grandeur of the tower and picturesque 
beauty pf the building. 

He had no power to make changes in the fabric ; and indeed, 
it had been Mr. Fulmort's advice that in all the alterations which 
he should introduce, he should carefully distinguish between 
essentials and non-essentials, including in the former that spiritual 
support for himself, which was needful to prevent the salt from 
losing savour, and himself from becoming lowered to his people's 
level while waiting to raise them, but omitting what would be 
viewed as mere outward ornament till minds were trained to 
enter into it 

So, though Abednego Tripp's voice still reigned supreme in 
the responses, there was a fiiU complement of daily prayer and 
weekly feast, though the Vicar's very heart ached over the 
blankness, dreariness, and scant attendance. The main body of 
the parishioners never indeed openly censured an Underwood, but 
they viewed these aberrations on the part of * Mr. Eddard,' as an 
outcome of gentlefolks' lack of employment * The last Passon 
Fulbert, he were all for bosses, this here Passon Eddard, he be all 
for churchings,' was the parish judgment ; and only now and then 
were deep-set grafts implanted by his father discovered to cheer 
his heart 

Indeed, the influences Of school, visiting, lectures, and classes, 
were the more impeded by the influence of the four Miss 
Hepbums. 

* Ah !' said Clement, as he touched his hat to a tail grey and 
russet form, * there goes one of the trials of my hfe 1 All the 
religion in the parish was kept up by those good ladies, and now 



Chap. 
XXXV. 



^ 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXV. 



they think mine worse than none. They call me " Poor young 
man!" Yes, you may laugh, Felix; but it is they who prevent 
me from making way. If they were only Dissenters, I should 
know what to be at ; but they have deserved all the love and re- 
verence of the parish all these years, and now they turn it against 
me!' 

* Knowingly?' 

* So far as that they sigh at me, and warn people against trusting to 
ordinances, as if I ever taught any such thing, or as if people needed 
to be told not to go to church.' 

* They don't do that?' 

* Not exactly ; but it amounts to an excuse for not going. And 
if I object to one tract, they ingeniously substitute another just as 
bad, I can't turn them out of the school They were so much 
disgusted when I got the Sunday school out of the Lady Chapel 
into the Vicarage, the stable you know, that I was in hopes they 
would cut the concern ; but no, they go on like martyrs. Their 
object is to counteract me. They have as good as told me they 
think it their mission.' 

* Do you argue ?' 

* Oh yes, I did so plentifully the first six months, but they always 
assumed I said something I never even dreamt of. They even went 
to Mr. Underwood, but I don't think they got much out of him,* said 
Clement, laughing a little. ' Of late I have had no time to go near 
them ; and my one cpmfort is they don't think Blackstone Gulley a 
place for ladies, and fancy we have nothing to do with the East 
Ewmouth suburb. I don't know why I should rejoice, though ! 
The place there grows every day, and into heathenism.' 

No wonder poor Clement was fagged, melancholy, and dis- 
couraged His life was lonely. There were no gentry in the 
village but these ladies ; and he — :with his strong opinions and 
assertion of his office — ^was exactly the person to be as heavy a 
trial to middle-aged ladies of opposite traditions, and accustomed 
to a semi-pastorate, in the neglected parish, as ever they could be 
to him. The neighbouring clergy, except one overtasked incum- 
bent, on the farther side of Ewmouth, were of their way of thinking, 
pitied them, and stood courteously aloof from the new-comer. 
Stoneborough was too far off for much intercourse, and even there 



THE OLD SQUIRE AND THE NEW. 



281. 



his peculiarities stood in his light, and his position as the guest of 
nis invalid kinsman prevented him from bringing a friend to stay 
OTth him, or arranging an exclvLnge to give himself relaxation. 
He had not even been able to go up to Cambridge for his M.A. 
degree, and had not once slept out of the Priory. Of this he did 
not complain, but no doubt this isolation had assisted in his de- 
pression and belief that he was was failing utterly, and doing 
nothing but mischief. 

It seemed to be an inexpressible relief to talk to some one who 
could understand him ; and perhaps he had never so enjoyed hi^ 
brother^s society before. 

The butler met them at the door, saying that Mr. Underwood 
was awake, and asking for both him and * Mr. Felix ;' and Clement 
led the way at once to the sitting-room, where the old man still 
was daily wheeled, for the restlessness of rapid failure was on him ; 
and the sight of his wan puffy-looking face and the sinking in of 
his whole figure startled Felix, even after what he had heard. He 
lighted up a little at the sight of * Edward,' and held out a cold 
damp hand to Felix, complaining of chill ; nor could he bear to 
lose sight of the younger cousin again. Every moment he wanted 
his help to change his posture or alter his pillows ; and when the 
brothers were called away to dinner, Clement would hardly have 
gone save to obtain an opportunity of telling his brother that he 
saw much- change in this short time, and to despatch a message for 
the medical man from Ewmouth. 

He, however, said nothing definite, but administered an anodjme, 
and promised to come early, advising Clement to leave the night- 
watch to the nurse, as causing less excitement, and perhaps with a 
view likewise to the visible eflfects of a long course of anxious and 
disturbed nights. 

But in the early light of May morning, Clement was standing by 
his brother's bed-side, saying in a low agitated voice, * Felix, I 
think the end is coming. His mind is clear, and he wants to see 
you. I think we ought to have the Celebration. I hoped to have 
brought him to send for Jane — ^in fact, I have sent You must 
judge if we ought to wait' 

Felix had less experience of. the approach of death than the 
jroimg clergyman, but the ashy sunken face and hollow breath 



Chap. 
XXXV. 



«82 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXV. 



assured him that there was no time to lose. The old man was 
sensible, and perfectly knew Felix, but was too much oppressed to 
speak much ; only after a time he said, with an odd kind of smile, 
' That boy Edward does more for me than ever my own, poor 
fellow — ^like his father — ^glad he has his place — he*s not next to 
you?* 

* Not if poor Edgar be living, sir.' 

* Don't let a scamp come between him and the property,' gasped 
the old man ; but Felix felt no need of answering. 

* Wish my uncle had signed his will,' was the next murmur. 

* Edward and Mary would have done better — ^maybe, my poor boy, 
too. Is Edward there ? I say — ^you lads — ^never drive a son into 
the Church, whatever you do.' 

It was a remote temptation, but there was an echo of repentance 
in the warning. No more was said till all had been made ready. 
Old Tripp had been sent for to make up the number ; the house- 
hold contained no Communicant The d)dng man made each 
brother give him his hand, and said, * Peace with all, isn't that 
it ? You, both of you, Felix and Edward, I did use your father 
and mother as I ought not, though somehow I thought at the time 
I had the right, but I believe I have suflfered for it all my life ; and 
I ask your pardon as I would ask theirs.' 

* Indeed you have it, as I know you had theirs,' Felix said. 

• My brother knows as well as I, how no word like bitterness was 
ever allowed amongst us.' 

* Did Edward forgive me at last ?* 

* Not at last,' said Felix ; ' he had done it so much at first, that 
he never thought of it' 

* And,' added Clement, 'will you not send a message to your 
daughter-in-law — to Jane, sir?' 

* To Jane ? Much she cares ! Well, if you say I must, and if 
Edward forgave me, I suppose — Tell her I'll do my best to forgive 
— but if she had never got hold of poor Fulbert— God forgive me 
— ^what am I getting'to ? Only mind she doesn't do the same by 
you. Ay, I!m at peace with her and all of 'em ! Only don't let 
her come. God have mercy on me?' The cry was, at least, half 
bodily. 

And so the holy rite began in dark doubt and dim trust and 



THE OLD SQUIRE AND THE NEW. 



^83 



hope. How unlike the bright cheeriness and the joy that no man 
could take away from Edward Underwood's last Communion ! 
This was the last interval of clear consciousness. All that day he 
was dying, with just perception enough to cling to Clemenf s pre- 
sence and voice, as almost unceasingly tlie young man held him 
up, and prayed with and for him with the earnestness of one who 
held intensely full faith in the might of intercessory prayer to aid 
the spirit in the doubtful strife, often supported by the thought of 
the prayers that were rising in so many churches far away for the 
struggling and the dying. 

Felix was with him at times, but no one could do much to aid 
his physical exertion \ and it was needful to keep guard over Mrs. 
Fulbert Underwood, as long as there was mind enough left for her 
presence to cause emotion. It had been right of Clement to send 
for her, but she was a trying element in the day, though not loud 
or coarse, but tearful and aifectionate about the dear old Squire's 
former kindness and the wretched misunderstanding that had come 
between. There was every reason to believe her a harpy, but at 
this moment she could not show her talons ; and Felix was divided 
between sense of humbug and fear of injustice during the long 
uncongenial tite^-fHe, The only breaks in it were from the doctors. 
Mr. Page was backwards and forwards the whole day, and Dr. May 
came in the course of the morning j but they could do nothing but 
apply these resources of science that seem but to lengthen out the 
death agony. However, the greatest refreshment of that day was 
a turn under the wall with Dr. May, hearing how highly he thought 
of Clement's whole conduct towards the old man. 

* I don't say the lad is altogether after my cut,' said the Doctor. 
* We old folks used to think ourselves up in the steeple, and now 
we find these young ones think us down in the crypts. I'm afraid 
he may be bringing a hornet's nest about his ears, but that's all 
outside ; and for the rest, nobody could have had such an effect on 
poor old Ful Underwood without something very genuine in 
him.' 

• That is quite true,' said Felix ; * Clement has startled us some- 
times, but we have never done otherwise than respect his thorough 
sincerity ; and he always shows to the very best in any trouble 
or trial' 



Chap. 
XXXV. 



I 



284 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXV. 



* Ay,' said Dr. May ; * and I'll tell you another thing I've been 
slow to find out. It's not one youth in a hundred that if he is 
moderate enough to stop with what satisfied our — ^my — generation, 
has anything in him. Why, as I saw it well put the other day — 
Ethel was delighted with the notion — King Arthur tried to work up 
the Round Table, and because Christian chivalry had raised that 
generation, comes the Quest of the Sancgreal to lead them higher. 
'Tis one of the tests of Hfe whether we will take to our Quest and 
let others take to it Tying them down to our Round Table does 
no good at all. But what am I talking of? You are one of these 
boys yourself.' 

* I suppose I am,' said Felix ; ' but I own I should be happier 
to see things as my father would have had them.' 

* Somehow I saw it in you. Veneration has fixed your standard, 
I take it ; and youVe had all the cares in the world to sober you. 
But depend upon it — I've seen it many a time, in my own boys as 
well as others — enthusiasm carries on the work, and where that is, 
you may be only too thankful to give a loose rein. A young man 
must have it out one way or another ; and we may well be thank- 
fill if he gives it to the Church, even though he may run into what 
seems queer to us.' 

Felix laid up the conversation for himself and Geraldine, and 
thought it over many times that long day. 

Not till late in the evening was the unconsciousness such that 
Mrs. Underwood could be admitted, and it was not till two in the 
morning that the struggle was over. Clement had scarcely tasted 
anything since the hurried, interrupted dinner the previous day, 
except what his brother had almost forced on him at the bed-side ; 
and he was so stiff, spent, and worn out, that Felix could think 
of nothing till he had seen him safe in bed. 

Nor was it till the clash of the knell had sounded several times, 
that at eight next morning, FeUx gradually awoke ; and only slowly 
did the strokes, as he mechanically counted them, recall to him that 
the event had happened — that he was in his own house — \os 
mother's rightfid inheritance — ^and that his years of toil and effort 
were over! To say that his first thought was not exultation would 
not be true. The recovery of his natural position, and the pos- 
session of such a home for his sisters, could not but rejoice him, 



THE OLD SQUIRE AND THE NEW, 



98c 



though with it came the sense of responsibility, and of a perplexing 
knot to be untied, a knot of wrong to be undone at any — ^yes, at 
any cost * Even if it leave us as poor as heretofore,' he spoke to 
himself, * God grant me to prove my faith in His word as to 
poverty.' 

Ere the tolls had ceased all the multiplied honours they could 
pay to sixty-five years and Squire-rector, Felix saw Clement, instead 
of sleeping, on his way to the church, Felix followed thither ere 
long, and the brothers met at the churchyard gate. 

' Well, Clement,' said Felix, as their hands met, * you have led 
this to end better than one durst hope.' 

' It had all been working long before,' said Clement in a trem- 
bling voice. 

* It has been a terrible time for you. Are you rested ?' 

* A little stifif and achy — but that will work off, thank you.' 

' And now, Clem, you must stand by me, and help me in what 
is to be done.' 

The two brothers stood looking at the fine old house, the cloister 
connecting it with the church, the spring beauty blossoming roimd ; 
Clement put his hand on his brother's shoulder, and said, in a half 
apologetic tone, ' After all, I can't help being glad it has come to 
you at last' 

It may be doubted whether any congratulation pleased Felix so 
much. •! am glad to have known it so long beforehand,* he 
answered, * I hope we shall be enabled to see the right and do it' 

Clement looked at the church and at the village; and again, 
with warm impulse and tears in his eyes, exclaimed, * I cannot help 
^ being glai Now I have some hope for my poor people.' 

* We will do our best,' said Felix ; * and you will bear with me 
if I disappoint you.' 

* Nay,' said Clement, the tears nearly choking him, * the really 
best thing for the place would be, if you would let me give up, and 
appoint old Flowerdew.' 

* What 1 be driven away by the clan Hepburn ?' 

^ Not that, exactly, except that an older man, who had not made 
such a wretchedly bad beginning, might make all the difference. 
Till you are settled in here, you will not conceive the mess I have 
made of it all.' 



Chap. 
XXXV. 



886 



: THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXV. 



* I see you have had a great strain on you ; you will look' on it 
differently when you have rested.' 

* I don't know/ said Clement. * It is not that I don't care for 
the place, Felix,' he added, pleadingly ; * I do now, with all my 
heart and soul — it is my charge, and must be — only if I could 
learn a little more, and get rid of a little of my youth and prig- 
gishness before I come back, it would be so much better for the 
people.' 

* Of that last article I think you have got rid considerably.' 

* I'm sure there's been enough to take the conceit out of me ;' 
and perhaps he proved it by adding, * But I leave it to you, Felix ; 
I know you think it may be essential to your plans that a brother 
should hold the vicarage, and if so, of course I would go on, 
knowing too what an immense difference the influence of this 
house will make, and the having you to turn to for advice.' 

* If we can live here at all,' said Fehx. * I do not in the least 
know the rights of the property.' 

Nor could he tell till after a good deal of talk with the lawyers 
and looking over of papers. The funeral was to be on the 
Saturday, and conducted exactly like that of last year. Felix 
thought the present no time for a protest against the seventy-five 
yards of black cloth. * Though this is the last of it,' he said to 
Clement, * I'll have no church put in mourning for me.' 

He saw very little of his brother, for the house was a good deal 
beset with Shaws ; and besides, Clement, who was to go up to 
London on the Monday, had a good deal of parish visiting and 
business in arrear to make up, and so far from resting, scarcely sat 
down or ate. He would accept no assistance at the funeral, but 
every one remarked hov/ ill he looked. Afterwards there was a 
public reading of the will, which named Felix as sole executor as 
well as heir ; and added to the provision for the daughter-in-law 
by the settlements a charge of three hundred a year on the estate 
so long as she should remain a widow. A few very unkind things 
were said by the Shaws, which Clement was young enough to 
mind a good deal, after all his peacemaking efforts, and which 
made Bernard's eyes flash. 

Bernard was to stay with his brothers over the Sunday ; but he 
must have found it a dull evening, for Clement had a sermon to 



THE OLD SQUIRE AND THE NEW, 



287 



\irrite, and Felix was deep in calculations till long after the boy 
had 3rawned himself off to bed. 

At last Felix knocked at Clement's study-door.. * Up still 1 
Clem, you want rest' 

* Not I. But I have just finished. How do things turn out?' 

* Fairly/ said Felix, showing him a paper where he had drawn 
up a statement The property altogether, you see, has been 
counted at four thousand five hundred a year. Well, out of that 
Mrs. Underwood has eight hundred a year, and the involvements 
of Fulberfs debts reduce it a good deal more, so that Mr. Wilder 
says I must not reckon on more than two thousand three hundred 
at present, and of that nine hundred and fifty is the great tithe, 
and the rent of the Glebe farm is three hundred and seventy. 
Blackstone Gulley belongs to the estate, and could not be sold ; 
but the speculator gave a round sum for a twenty-one years' lease, 
which will not be run out these four years, so we can do nothing 
about that at present Now, Clem, this nine hundred and fifty a 
year — I'm not going to make it over to you bodily. I think that, 
with the Glebe Farm, your income as Vicar will be quite as much 
as is good for a parson.' 

* I suppose so,' said Clement, laughing ; * I never felt poor in my 
life till I had four hundred a year, and I should be poorer still if 
I had fourteen hundred,' 

* No wonder, if you subscribe to everything, and pay for 
whatever is wanted in the parish instead of asking those who 
ought ! I believe four thousand would not make much difference 
to you, or four hundred thousand either,' said Felix, who had come 
to some appalling discoveries as to Clement's ways of dealing with 
money. 

* Perhaps not,' he answered, good humouredly ; but what do 
you mean to do ? To be your own ecclesiastical commissioner ?' 

' Something like it ; at any rate, not to put it out of my own 
ands till I see the best way, and that there will be time to do 
while it is putting the church and the Glebe cottages into a proper 
state, and setting the Vicarage to rights. Perhaps first of all should 
come a school-chapel for Blackstone Gully ; and as I reckon that all 
this will take six or seven years, by that time we shall be able to 
judge what is most wanted— a church and endownaept for.Black- 



Chap. 
.CXXV. 



188 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXV. 



stone, or for that Ewmouth suburb, or both; and when that is 
done, I would make over the rectorial rights to the living.' 

' O Felix ! I never durst think of an3rthing — so like a dream !' 
said Clement, looking up at him. 

* And you will stay here, Clem ? I think you must ; for you see 
I can hand over the rent of the glebe, and settle these things with 
you, taking my time about them in a way I could not do if the in- 
cumbent were not my brother and my next heir.' 

* But I am not your next heir.' 

* I have made you so. I thought it right to draw up a very 
short will, leaving everything to you, with John Harewood as 
executor, to save the dead lock there would be in case of my 
coming to some sudden end. I can perfectly trust to you to do 
right by the sisters and Theodore ; and if Edgar, poor fellow ! 
should come home, I know you would hand over to him what is 
really secular, and you would feel to be his right. But, Clement, 
you need have the less scruple at my doing this, that I have come 
to think there is little likelihood of the dear fellow being alive.' 

* Indeed !' 

* More than a year ago, Fulbert sent me a scrap of newspaper 
with an account of a man being found murdered by the bush- 
rangers. He had been robbed, and there was nothing about him 
to lead to his identification ; but the diggers he had last been with 
called him Ned Wood. Fulbert went to the place and made all 
possible inquiries, but could find out nothing, but that he had 
been noted for singing, and was light-complexioned. Fulbert 
himself believes it; and I think nothing else would have led 
Feman to give up his search. I thought it so entirely vague and 
improbable, that I let no one but Lance see the letter ; indeed, I 
so utterly disbelieved it, that it did not dwell on me at the time \ 
but tte longer we are without hearing, the more I am driven to 
believe it.' 

* You have not told Cherry?* 

* If it were a certainty, I could not tell her half what Fulbert 
heard. 1 have never spoken to her about it I will not take 
away her hope on such grounds.' 

* I think you are right I do not think an3rthing of this stoi} 
myseilf.' 



THE OLD SQUIRE AND THE NEW. 



289 



* Nor I, at times when I think of ** the child of so many prayers," ' 
said Felix. 'But with such a dreadful possibihty, never to be 
cleared up, you see it would never do to leave things unsettled ; so 
I just did this for the present' 

* Yes, it can be altered at need,* said Clement, with a long 
breath. 

* This house,* said Felix, returning to business, * is clearly our 
own ; and you will go on with us of course for the present, if we 
can live here. It has certainly been a priory, but I do not there- 
fore feel bound to restore that ; I have read and thought much 
about those religious houses, and I think that there is no call to 
give them up as things now stand.' 

'If?' 

' I must talk it over with some of the financial heads. Of course 
I wish it for the girls, and my own duty seems to lie here \ but if 
it will not do, I must let the place till the entanglements clear 
themselves.' 

' Let the place? What I and go on with the business?' cried 
Clement, in consternation. 

* I must keep on the business any way.' 

* Felix 1 Impossible 1 In your position — ^ 

* I cannot have the position if I cannot have the business. 
Look at it : here is Bernard to be educated, and Lance to go to 
the University, and four girls without any provision worth naming, 
besides Theodore ; and how is all to be done out of less than a 
thousand pounds a year, with this house and grounds to be kept 
up, and where people are used to see five thousand spent ?' 

' Could you not sell the business ?* 

* Of course I could; but judging by what I have gathered 
during this year, the capital I should receive would not bring me 
in anything in proportion to what I make now; and I cannot 
afford to lose so much. 

' I don't see that you are a bit better off than you were before !' 
' Rather worse, as far as money goes. — But this place ! You 
don't feel the charm of it half enough. What will it not be to 
Cherry, and little Stella? I do think Cherry will get along here; 
though Wilmet will say we ought not to try. But I shall pay off 
all the servants on Monday, and well start on a new tack.' 

VOL. II. u 



Chap. 
XXXV. 



290 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXV. 



* Yes ; I believe they have preyed awfully on the old Squire. 
There's not one I should wish to keep, in-door or out-door.' 

*' Then we would begin on a smaller scale, and harden ourselves 
against traditions. I would get a real good assistant for Lamb, go 
backwards and forwards, and keep on the Pursuivant myself as 
before.' 

* The Pursuivant is all very well It is a valuable influence : 
but can't you keep that, and drop the retail affair ?' 

* I can't give up three hundred a year for the honour of the 
thing.' 

* But if I live with you, could you not keep the rent of the Glebe 
farm as my board?' 

* You certainly have been sumptuously maintained here, but 
hardly at the cost of three hundred and seventy pounds ! No ; 
I think it would be only fair that you should give a htmdred 
towards the housekeeping, as Mr. Audley used to do, and some- 
thing more for your horse ; but to take any more would only be 
robbing the Church under another form.' 

* I don't like it ! It will do you harm in the neighbourhood. 
You will never take your proper place ;' then, as Felix half smiled, 
* you wonder at these arguments from me ? Yes, but \ know the 
neighbourhood better than you do, and I do not like to see your 
influence and usefulness crippled.' 

* That may be ; but the choice Ues between being looked* down 
on for being in trade and continuing in this wrong to the 
Church.' 

* Surely we could live at small expense here ! We have aU 
been used to frugality.' 

* Yes, and I have seen that stinting has not a happy eflect In 
such a house as this, we cannot live as we have done at home. 
We can do without display, but plain hospitality we must have, and 
debt would be worse than trade. Ah, Clem ! the old home has 
made you the exclusive aristocrat again ! Recollect, such a 
restitution must involve sacrifice of some sort We must have the 
Underwood " rood" some way or other. You are ready enough to 
let it be in money and luxury, but can't you let it be in — ^what 
shall I call it — consideration? That is, if it does make any 
difference, or if we find it out' 



THE OLD SQUIRE AND THE NEW. 



291 



* You'll find it out fast enough from the Miss Hepbums/ 
muttered Clement 

Felix laughed * Poor Clem ! Hepbums first and last 1 I'm 
sorry to disgrace you I * 

But during that laugh Clement had bethought himself. * I beg 
your pardon, Felix ; you are a lesson to me. I did not know that 
it was the world that was arguing in me. To go on working 
in trade in order to make restitution to the Church is heroism 
I did not grasp at first' 

* Perhaps,' said Felix more lightly, * it is all reluctance to give 
up being somebody at Bexley for the sake of being nobody in 
Ewshire. Don't look so unhappy, old fellow \ University men and 
beneficed clergy, like you, think much of what I was inured to long 
ago. Come; put out your lamp, and come up to bed ; I am sure 
you can't finish that sermon to-night' 

* If I did,' said Clement, shutting it up, * it would be to say I 
•was not worth ever to preach again !* 

Perhaps Felix, who had entirely disbelieved the report of Edgar's 
fate tin his mind had in a manner become accustomed to the idea, 
had underrated the amount of shock that it would give Clement, 
who had never been half so much attached to poor Edgar as 
himself; nor perhaps might it have done so, but for the unnerved 
overstrained condition to which the year's solitude and responsibility, 
the months of nursing, and the days of severe fatigue, had brought 
him. 

Felix was wakened firom his first sleep by the strangled scream 
of nightmare in the next room, and hastening in, broke the spell, 
and found that poor Clement had been dreaming out what he had 
told him, and had deemed himself bound, gagged, struggling to 
come to Edgar's aid, and ask his pardon for having done him 
some horrible injury, the load of which did not at first pass with 
awakening. 

* No,' he said, when he had entirely resumed his waking powers, 
* it is too true ! Things never were as they ought to have been 
between us ! AVho knows what difference it might have made !' 

* Of course,' said Felix, thinking that to talk it all out would 
conduce to Clement's quieter rest *We can all look back to 
much that we would have had otherwise ; but I trace the original 

u 2 



Chap. 
XXXV. 



292 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXV. 



mischief to those days when Mr. Ryder, young and eager, talket 
out all his crudities to the cleverest boy in his school, just as he 
had done to his Oxford friends. He feels it himself, I think. He 
gave unintentionally a sort of resource against whatever was dis- 
tasteful, and made all the scepticism that the poor dear fellow was 
exposed to abroad not seem a mere foreign aberration. Somehow 
he was afraid of what religion might do to him, and so took refuge, 
not so much in doubt, as in knowing it was doubted The only 
thing that I ever knew touch .him, was something Lance said to 
him about refusing to go and live with him in London.' 

' Yes ; his brightness did good, where my assumptions only 
added to the general contempt' 

* Still, the more I think, the more I do believe that whether we 
ever know it or not, so sweet and loving a nature must come right 
at last' 

And there in the dark those two brothers knelt down together 
and in deep undertones uttered a few clauses of intense prayer 
Then Clement said in a broken voice, * Felix, do keep your present 
room, and let us say this together every night' 

And the elder brother's only answer was such a fatherly kiss 
as he gave the younger ones. They remembered that night long 
after! 

On the Sunday Clement was not only exhausted and unwell, but 
could not help allowing it, for he fainted after his first service, and 
was forced to allow himself to lie by whenever he was not actually 
needed, letting Felix spare him whatever was possible. Thus it 
was that the new Squire astonished the natives by taking the 
Vicar's Sunday class in the stable that served for the school By- 
the-by, instead of receiving such a lecture as used to be the penalty 
of intrusting his own Bexley boys to Clement, he was now 
dejectedly forewarned that the Vale Lestonites did not know half 
as much, and had the more reason to think it true because such an 
extraordinary proceeding on a Squire's part filled them with blank 
speechless amazement 

The congregation were equally full of wonder, approaching to 
incredulity, when their new Mr. Underwood stood forth surphced, 
and read the Lessons. He had done the like often for Mr. 
Flowerdew ; but he would not have thus amazed the villagers or 



THE OLD SQUIRE AND THE NEW. 



293 



this first Sunday if he had not been really uneasy as to their Vicar's 
powers of getting through the services. And it really was a 
memorable thing, to Clement at least, to hear his full clear beautiful 
voice setting forth the delights of the Land of Promise, the goodly 
houses and fields, and the warnings that he was verily taking to 
himself against the heart being lifted up, and forgetting, or turning 
to serve the gods the former nations had served — the gods may be 
of family pride, and pleasure, and ease, and comfort. To Clement 
it seemed as though he read the whole magnificent chapter of 
Deuteronomy like a manifesto of his own future course, declaring all 
against which he meant to beware. It was just as, when he had to 
seal up a bimdle of papers that evening, he took up a big old 
white cornelian seal with the family shield, and said, squeezing it 
down into a deep well-prepared bed of red sealing-wax, * There, I 
never did that before ; I couldn^t be liable for armorial bearings I * 
And as Bernard exclaimed, * Yes, now you are a gentleman out 
and out I ' he answered gravely, * Not forgetting the motto, Bear. 
Remember what we take up.' 

* There's no sense in those old sing-song saws,' boldly averred 
Bernard 

* Perhaps you'll know better some day.' 

Felix went himself to St Matthew's with Clement, and had a 
private conference with Mr. Fulmort, the result of which was, that the 
senior curate, very glad of a breath of May loveliness, went down 
for three weeks to Vale Leston, while the Vicar thereof refireshed 
his spirit at St Matthew's, and that when he went back again he 
was to take with him the Reverend Frederick Somers, to stay till 
the family move should bring him other companions. 

The only sister within reasonable distance was Robina; and 
Felix could not deny himself a call on her, especially as there were 
no fiirther considerations about incommoding the family with 
her relations. He was shown into a big drawing-room, not at the 
moment inhabited, but with the air of being used by easy-going 
happy people ; and almost immediately in flew the neat trim black- 
silken personage with the sunny round face he had come in 
search of. 

* Felix ! dear Felix \ how nice and good to come in all your 
glory ! Lady de la Poer was in the school-room, and she told me 



Chap. 
XXXV. 



294 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXV. 



to ask you to stay to luncheon. Do, pray I I want you to see her 
and Grace, and my children.' 

* Very well. * If I do, can you come out with me afterwards ? 
I want your help.* 

* Oh yes ! I am sure I shall be able. TU ask at luncheon, 
if Lady de la Poer does not offer.' 

* Have you spoken to her ?' 

* Told her ? Of course. We had quite a festival in the school- 
room, and all drank your health in cowsUp wine. We had had a 
whole lot of cowslips sent up from the Towers \ and their papa 
came in, and wanted to know if Mr. Underwood were not worthy 
of a more generous beverage. Oh, I wish he were at home ; I 
want you to see him T (* And him to see you,* she had on the tip 
of her tongue, but she thought he would not like it) 

* And when are you coming home ? * 

* When you all go to take possession. I would not lose that for 
anything. I am to have my holiday then.* . 

* HoHday ! You are coming for good.* 

* Don't you think,' she said, looking up in his face, * that after 
all this education on purpose for a teacher, it would be a shame to 
throw it all up and come to live on you ?' 

* That was just one of the things I value this inheritance for, 
Robin. There's no fear but that you would find plenty to do.* 

* You have three to do it,' she said ; * and the more Angela has 
on her hands the better she will get on. I have been thinking 
it over ever since you wrote, Felix, and I cannot see that your 
having an estate makes it right in me to live dependent when I can 
maintain myself. It would not if I were your brother.* 

* You are not going in for women*s rights, Bob ?* he said, 
smiling. 

* Not out-and-out But listen. What you have for us is just 
the run of the house, isn't it?' 

* Well, yes,' he hesitated. * It will take some time and prudence 
to make a provision for you, you horribly wise bird ! ' 

* Then would it not be foolish to come and eat up your provision 
at home when I can do something towards making one myself; and 
I am really very happy ?' and there was colour enough in her cheek 
slightly to startle her brother. 



THE OLD SQUIRE AND THE NEW, 



29 c 



' Oh, if you are too happy here to come away — ^ 

* Don't say that ! she cried. * I like it, for they are all kind and 
bright j and I never had such a friend as Lady Grace — and I feel 
as if I were doing a duty ; but — oh no ! — ^ 

* Don't be so horribly discomfited, my dear. Only when young 
ladies are so happy away from home, and want to make a provi- 
sion — My dear little sister, I beg your pardon — ' 

* Stay, Felix ; I must tell you now, that you may not fancy any- 
thing so dreadful as that it is any one here.' 

* Then there's an " it is," after all ! ' 

* No I oh, I don't know I I tried to speak to Wilmet, and she 
would not let me ; but when we were both ridiculous children, a 
litde foolish nonsense passed between him and me.' 

* Whom ?' 
' Willie !' 

' Will Harewood? I thought that was all the Bailey nonsense.' 

^ I can't tell,' said Robina, leaning against him and looking 

down. * Do all I can, I can't forget the sort of — of promise ; and 

I've never been sure whether he meant it, but — ^but I think he did. 

Fee ! is it bad of me?' 

* My sweet Bob,' he said, and kissed her, * I am glad you have 
told me. I never thought of such an affair being on your little 
mind. I must say I wish it had not happened.' 

* No, don't say that,' said Robina. * It does not worry me ;' 
and she laughed at the very sound of the words. ' Why, can't 
you see how happy I am ? and I mean to be. I know how good 
and nice he is ; and if he doesn't remember, or can't do it, there's 
no harm done. (This was in a tone brave because it was 
incredulous.) But if ever it did come to anything, I should like 
to have something to help on with.' 

•Very practical and business-like, my bird ! And I am afraid it 
is a sign it goes deep ! ' he said musingly. 

'Deep r she said, looking up to him, 'of course it does ! It 
would be very odd if it did not ! But that will only make me 
glad of whatever is good for Will ; and I think the waiting is all 
right I do want to have done something for him 1 The only 
question is whether it will be bad for you at Vale Leston to have 
a governess sister.' 



Chap. 
XXXV. 



296 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXV. 



* There's worse than that, Robin,' said Felix, gravely, * for the 
Squire himself remains* a bookseller 1' 

* You don't mean that !' 
He briefly explained. 

* That quite settles it,' she said. * I could not go home and live 
in idleness while you were working on.' 

* I believe you are right, Robin ; but I am disappointed. I did 
reckon on my sisters living like ladies 1' 

* Isn't three enough for you,' laughed Robin, * to set up in a 
row and wait upon, as Stella does on her dolls ?' 

* Precisely so. I don't think I could have let you turn 
Effective Female on my hands, if you hadn't a pretty little 
feminine aim of your own.' 

* For shame, Felix I Don't ever think about that again I Only 
tell me when to ask for my holiday.' 

* There are a few repairs that must be done at once ; besides 
I've made a clean sweep of the servants, and turned in old Tripp's 
daughter to do for Clement I don't think we can possibly be 
ready for a' month or six weeks.' 

By this time the gong was sounding ; and Lady de la Foer 
came in with a kind and friendly greeting. Felix soon found 
himself in the midst of a large family party of all ages, full of 
bright mirth, among whom Robina spoke and moved with home- 
like ease, and he himself took his place as naturally as it was 
given to him. Lady de la Poer knew a little of Ewshire, and 
talked to him about it in the pleasantest manner, giving the sense 
of congratulation without obtruding it ; and she, without waiting 
to be requested — ^proposed Miss Underwood's going out with 
him, proclaiming that she would herself take the children into 
Kensington Gardens. 

Then, while Robina was gone to prepare, she said, *Your 
sister told me she does not wish to leave us. I said I could not 
consider the answer as final till she had seen you. Perhaps I 
ought not till she has seen your new home.' 

* Thank you,' said FeUx. *I confess it seemed to me startlingly 
prudent and independent ; but when I came to think it over, I 
could hardly say that the child is wrong.' 

* We were very glad, as you may believe, to find that she was 



THE OLD SQUIRE AND THE NEW. 



297 



nappy enough to be willing to stay on. Indeed, we both feel the 
benefit not only to the little ones, but of *the companionship to 
the elder girls. Grace is especially fond of her, and I hope it will 
be a lasting friendship.' 

Felix coloured as one very much pleased, and made some 
acknowledgment 

' There's a sturdy fearless good sense, and yet liveliness, about 
her,* continued the lady, * which has already been of great use to 
Grace, who is naturally all ups and downs. However, if she 
changes her mind among the attractions of home, we promise not 
to feel ill-used.' 

*What is Mamma saying?' exclaimed Lady Grace in person, 
entering the room with Robina as her mother was speaking. * Is 
she pretending that we shall not feel ill-used if Miss Underwood 
deserts us ? No such thing ! I shall never forgive her — never ! 
If you try to persuade her, mind, it is at peril of being haunted 
by the ghost of a forlorn maiden, pined to death for a faithless 
friend !' 

* You don't half like to trust her with Mr. Underwood,' said her 
mother, laughing. 

* I told you how good he was. Grade,' interposed Robina. 

' He is pretending to consent, and he means to undermine me I 
It will be just like Beauty and the Beast Your sisters will do 
their eyes with onions, to work on your feelings ; and then you'll 
stay on, and find the poor Beast — that's me — at the last gasp I' 

* That will be when she goes home,' said Felix, laughing, * I 
promise to bring her safe back now, Lady Grace ; but surely you 
have enough sisters of your own to spare me mine !' 

* Now listen, Mr. Underwood. It is true, as a matter of history 
and genealogy, that I've got five sisters ; but Number Two — ^that's 
Mary — is married, and no good to anybody; and Number One — 
that's Fanny — is always looking after her when she is not looking 
after Mamma. Then Adelaide, whom nature designed for my 
own proper sister, is altogether devoted to Kate Caergwent, and 
cares for nobody else ; and as to the little ones — ^why, they are 
only nine and ten, and good for nothing but an excuse for having 
Miss Underwood in the house 1 Now iis not it true that you have 
three sisters already at your beck and call ?' 



Chap 
XXXV. 



29S 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXV. 



* Two, I allow ; but the third is hardly at any one's becL' 

* What, that most entertaining person, Angela ? I don't think we 
have had such fun in the school-room since Kate's maddest days.' 

* My dear, I think you have a remnant of them,' said Lady de 
la Poer. * Let Miss Underwood go ; I am sure her brother has 
no time to spare.* 

* I hope,* said Felix, when they were in the street, * that Angel 
has not been exposing herself there.* 

* No, no, not much,' said Robina, hesitating. * The first time 
or two she was asked to tea in the school-room she kept me 
sitting on thorns, and liked it — the wicked child ; but after all, 
there is something about their manners that keeps her in check ; 
they are so merry, and yet so refined. I think nothing improves 
her so much as an evening with them— except, indeed, when 
there's any external element* 

* External element ?* 

* An)rthing that — that excites her,* hastily said Robina. * But is 
not Lady Grace delightfiil?' 

* She seems passionately fond of you — or was it a young lady's 
strong language ?* 

* Oh, she means it, dear Gracie ! She is lonely, you see. 
Lady Adelaide is rather a wise one, and she and Lady Caergwent 
read and study deep, and have plans together, and leave poor 
Grace out \ and they all teaze her for being so excitable.' 

*Well, I thought she was almost crying while she talked her 
nonsense.' 

* Just so I think her the sweetest of them all, because she feels 
so easily \ but her sisters do snub her a little And my Lady 
herself — is not she exactly one's imagination of a real great lady?' 

< Crhnedela Cr^meV 

' Yes, perfect dignity and simplicity, and as tender and careful 
a mother all the time as a cottage woman. I never felt any one so 
mother-like, even to me.' 

* I can quite believe that Yes, if you are to work, you could 
hardly do so more comfortably.' 

It was a concession, and Robina had to put up with it ; for as 
they turned into Piccadilly he changed the subject by demanding, 
* Now, Robin, what shall it be ? Seal-skins ?' 



THE OLD SQUIRE AND THE NEW. 



299 



* Seal-skins in the height of summer ?* 

* I thought all ladies pined for seal-skins. We have half a 
column of advertisements of them at a time,' 

* You don't want to extend the business to them ?' 
' No, but to give one to each of my sisters.' 

'They are a monstrous price, you know. You should have 
heard Lord de la Poer grumble when Addie and Grace had 
theirs!' 

* Fifty pound will do the five, I suppose ?' 

* I thought there were heavy expenses, and liot much ready 
money.' 

* There's enough for that, and I mean it. I shall not know 
that I have come into my fortune till I have taken home some- 
thing to show for it.' 

* I wonder what Wilmet would say.' 

* Wilmet is not my master, and a chit like you had best not try 
her line. It won't do, with your face and figure.' 

Robina could only laugh, and feel that she was still Felix's 
child, and if he chose to be extravagant she could not stop him. 

* Which shall it be T he continued ; * seal-skins, or silk gowns, 
or anything of jewellery ?* 

* Jewellery would last longest, and none of us have got any,' 
said Robin \ * but I believe you like the seals best' 

* I want to stroke Cherry in one. And wouldn't Wilmet look 
grand ? She hasn't got one, has she ?* 

* No. I was out with her and John last winter, when she 
dragged him past the shop.' 

* I thought you were aping her ! Well, I've broken loose, and 
she will have no choice now.' 

* You don't mean to include Alda ? 

* Poor Alda ! Seal-skins have ceased to be an object to her ; 
but I have had a very warm letter from her.' 

So Robina was only allowed the privilege of assisting in the 
selection of the smooth brown coats and muffs. Felix insisted on 
despatching Mrs. John Harewood's to her at once ; and he wanted 
to send Angela's, but yielded, on Robin's representation* of the 
impossibility of her putting it away in any security from the moth. 
His exultation in his purchases was very amusing, as he stroked 



Chap. 
XXXV. 



|00 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXV. 



them like so many cats, as if he were taking seisin of his inherit' 
ance. And when, some hours later, he sprang out of the train, 
and was met by the station-master with, * Mr. Underwood ! allow 
me to offer my most sincere congratulations,* and everybody ran 
for his luggage as never before, he still clung close to his precious 
parcel, like a child with a new toy, even to his own door, which 
was suddenly opened at his bell, Sibby crying aloud, * No, no, 
Martha, not a sowl shall open the door, barring meself, to me 
own boy that's come to his own again, an' got the better of all the 
nagurs that kep' him out Blessings on you, Masther Felix, me 
jewel, an' long life to you to reign over it I* And she really had 
her arms round his neck, kissing him. 

* Well done, Sibby, and thank you 1 Your heart warms to the 
old place, does it ?' and he held out a hand to the less demon- 
strative Martha, who stood curtseying, and observing, * I wish you 
joy, Sir.' 

By that time Stella had flown upon him, Theodore was clinging 
to his leg. Lance half way downstairs, and Cherry hanging over 
the balusters. 

* You villain !' were Lance's first words ; * why didn't you come 
home by daylight? All the establishment waited till the six 
o'clock train was in to give you three times three 1 ' 

* And now you are come,' added Cherry, * stand there, right in 
the middle ! I want to see how a Squire looks !' 

He obeyed by planting his feet like a colossus, tucking his 
umbrella under his arm like a whip, putting on his hat over his 
brow, and altogether assuming the conventional jolly Squire 
attitude, which was greeted by shrieks of laughter and applause. 

*Now let me see how a Squire's sister looks,' he continued, 
opening his parcel, and thrusting Stella into the first coat that 
came to hand, which being Angela's, came down to her heels. 

Cherry shouted, * Like the brown bear 1' and Scamp began to 
bark, and was forcibly withheld by Lance from demolishing the 
little brown muff that rolled out ; while Felix turned on Cherry 
with the jacket meant for Stella; and she, in convulsions of 
merriment, could do nothing but shriek, * Cyrus ! Cjniis 1 Cyrus f 

*Well, then, take the great coat, puss,' said Felix. *Here^ 
Stella, let me pull you out of that 1 That's more like it T 



THE OLD SQUIRE AND THE NEW, 



30^ 



*My dear Felix,* continued Cherry, in great affected gravity, 
'are these the official garments wherein we are to be installed? 
Nearly as severe as royal ermine.' 

* Don't scold, Whiteheart I had enough of that from the wise 
Robin before she would help me choose them. I had set my 
heart on them.' 

* Dear old Giant !' cried Cherry, craning up to kiss him ; * he 
couldn't believe he had a landed estate till he had seen it on our 
backs! But,' she added, fearing to be disappointing, *I never 
knew before what it was to be sleek and substantial. If ever I did 
covet a thing, it was the coat of a seal.' 

* But how is Mr. Froggatt, Lance ?' 

* As well as can be expected,' was Lance's reply. * He con- 
gratulates with tears in his eyes, says you deserve it, but bemoans 
poor Pur, till I am minded to tell him that I'll stick by him and 
the concern ; for really I don't know what else I'm good for, and 
honest Lamb couldn't write a leader to save his life.' 

*ril walk over to-morrow, and set him at rest,' said FeUx. 
* I could not drop Pur if I would.' 

* I'm so glad,' said Cherry. ' I felt quite sad over the proofs, 
like casting off an old friend.' 

* Or kicking adrift the plank that has brought one to land. 
I knew Cherry would have broken her heart to part with Pur.' 

* Besides, it is a real power and influence,' added Cherry ; * and 
it is so improved. We had up a whole file of it for years back. 
Willie Harewood had lost some of his earlier March Hare poems, 
and thought they were there; so he and I hunted over reams 
of ancient Pur, and couldn't find them after all. I believe you 
had declined them ; and they would have been lost to the world 
if Lance hadn't written to Robina, and she had copies of them all, 
laid up in lavender.' 

' And they are the most splendid of all !' said Lance. 

* Only too good for the Pursuivant,' laughed Felix. 

* Well,' said Cherry, ' Will and I held up our hands to find how 
stupid Pur used to be four or five years ago, when you were in 
bondage to Mr. Froggatt's fine words and his fears.' 

' Yes,' and had no opposition to put us on our mettle,' added 
Lance. * The Tribune was the making of the Pursuivant ; I'm 



Chap. 
XXXV. 



3f>2 



THE PILLARS OF THE TIOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXV. 



inclined to offer it a testimonial. By-the-by, Felix, are you 
prepared for a testimonial yourself — or at the very least, a dinner 
in the Town Hall, from your fellow citizens ? They're all agog 
about it* 

* On the principle that " as long as thou doest well unto thyself 
men will speak good of thee?" ' asked FeUx. * No,' correcting 
himself, 'that's hardly fair; there's kind feeling in it, too; but 
perhaps they will let me off when they find it is not a farewell.' 

* Not !' 

* Now, Cherry and Lance, I want you to look at this statement. 
Clement has seen it, of course; but I don't want it to go any 
further, except to Jack. It is enough to say that I find the 
property a good deal burthened, which is only too true.' 

*You don't seem to have much of a bargain!' said Lance, 
coming round to read over Cherry's shoulder. 

* The question is whether Cherry can trample on . Underwood 
traditions, and keep house for a thousand a year where people 
expect three or four times the sum to be laid out* 

' I thought you reckoned things here at five hundred.* 

* Hardly so much. We shall have to get our old bugbear, the 
superior assistant Besides, Lance, now's your time. You must 
begin to get ready for Oxford at once.* 

* I ?* said Lance. * No, thank you, Felix Clement offered 
me the same last year, but my head wouldn't stand grinding 
nohow. No, if you stick to the old plank, so will I. I was more 
than half wishing it before, and ready to break my heart at leaving 
the organ to some stick of my Lady's choosing, only I didn't 
know what you might think due to the manes of the Underwoods.' 

* The manes of the Underwoods must make up their minds to a 
good deal,' said Felix; *but is it really true that you do not 
think yourself fit for study ?* 

* No, but music I can combine with the work here,* said Lance ; 
* and that would save the superior assistant, and you will be free to 
make a gentleman of Bear.* 

* Yes, that must be done,* said Felix. * Even Stoneborough will 
not do now. He is such a cocky little chap, that the only chance 
for him is to get him to a great public school, where this pro- 
motion will seem nothing to anybody.' 



THE OLD SQUIRE AND THE NEW, 



3^1 



* My poor little Bear I I am very glad,' said Cherry. * And he 
is still young enough ; yet it hardly seems fair, when all his elders 
had to earn their own education.' 

' Such as it was !' interjected Lance. 

* Yes/ said Felix ; * and when I remember the sighs my father 
now and then let out about Eton or Harrow, I feel bound to give 
the benefit to the one who can take it; but I don't like the 
spending two hundred a year on that boy, and then leaving you, 
Lance, to all the drudgery, and a solitary house.' 

* That matters the less,' said Lance, * because I am busy with 
the choir and with practice two evenings in the week, and should 
be more, if it wasn't for doing the agreeable to Cherry.' 

* He'll turn into a misogynist, like Mr. Miles,' laughed Cherry. 

* No, he'll be consumed by an unrequited affection for all the 
young ladies that come in with the loveliest eyes in the world,' 
said Felix. 

' Hell set the March Hare poetry to music, and serenade them 
with it,' added Cherry. 

* No, I shall cultivate the Frogs,' said Lance. * It would be too 
bad to have left the poor old boy in the lurch.' 

* Yes, that has weighed a good deal with me,' said Felix. * I'm 
determined that they shall come and stay with us at the Priory as 
soon as we can get it in order, and before the winter. I'll bring 
them up myself. You, see, Lance, whenever I take a turn here 
you can be at home.' 

* Home ! he has begun already !' 

* It was home to me first, and I always feel that it is whenever 
I come in sight of it Lancey, boy, when I think of leaving you 
here, it seems letting you sacrifice yourself too much I' 

* Nonsense, Blunderbore. You can't give this back to the 
Church if we don't keep off your hands ; and next, that coup diktat 
addled my brains so far that I'm good for no work but this that I 
have drifted into.' 

* Then, Cherry, you must help me make an estimate of the 
expenses, and see whether we can venture to live at the Priory, or 
whether we must let it, and go on here for seven years.' 

* Oh !' They both looked very blank. 

' I'd rather live on bread and cheese in the country,' said Cherry. 



Chap. 
XXXV. 



3<H 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXV. 



Chap. 
XXXVI. 



* So had I,* said Felix, * if the manes of the Underwoods are 
appeasable. One step is a riddance of all the servants ; I wonder 
how many you can do with. Five maids and five men I paid 
off, only keeping on one man, to look after Clem's horse and see 
to the garden.' 

* By-the-bye/ said Lance, * George Lightfoot begged me to state 
that his sister is at home, and always had a great wish to live with 
Miss Underwood.' 

* Let her come and speak to me, then,* said Cherry ; * though I 
am afraid she must moderate her expectations. It seems to me 
that except for the honour of the thing, this is another version of 
our old friend — "poortith cauld."' 

* Our best friend, maybe, Cherry,' said Felix, * if we can only 
heartily believe it ?* 

* His bride, as truly as St. Francis's,' thought she ; * and without 
the credit of it.' 



CHAPTER XXXVL 

POSSESSION. 



• And while the wings of fancy still are free, 
And I can view this mimic show of thee, 
Time has but half succeeded in his theft — 
Thyself removed, thy power to soothe me left.* 

Cowper, 

Though Felix had gone to town both in going to Vale Les- 
ton and coming from it, a much shorter way was feasible, only 
necessitating a couple of hours' delay at a junction. 

This was not so entirely inconvenient, on Felix's twenty-nintti 
birth-day, which had been fixed for the general migration to the new 
home, since Robina was to meet the others there from a country 
house of Lord de la Peer's, seven or eight miles off, and Major and 
Mrs. Harewood, and their two sons, would be in the down-train 
that was to pick the party up. Not only were they to assist in the 
taking possession, but they had secured lodgings for three months 
at the Glebe Farm. * It will be such a good thing,' had Wilmet 



POSSESSION, 



305 



said, * to settle them all in, and put Cherry and her housekeeping 
on the right tack.' 

* My dear Wilmet, I am perfectly sensible of the admirable 
monarchical constitution Kit and I live under ; but my principles 
are against annexation, and if you extend it to Cherry's house, 
I shall carry you off at once to Buckinghamshire, or to the 
Hebrides I ' 

* I only meant to help,' said Wilmet, with a little dignity ; then 
changing her tone as she saw a smile twitch his moustache, ' and 
you shall be judge what is help !' 

Clement was already at Vale Leston ; and Bernard, declaring 
that no one should catch him again at that filthy hole, Bexley, had 
repaired thither as soon as his holidays began. Martha, Amelia 
Lightfoot, and a superior housemaid of Wilmefs selection, were 
gone on to make ready \ also a young gardener, whose face had 
pleased Felix when he came to advertise : and half the Underwood 
family were at the station, together with Willie Harewood, Sibby, 
and Scamp — ^the latter chiefly in the service of Theodore. Sibby 
wds useful in other ways ; but she was, as ever, to have the chief 
charge of the boy by day, be his refuge from strangers, and attend 
to his meals, it being one of his peculiarities that he never could 
or would eat at the family table. And Scamp, though Lance's 
property, was so much Theodore's delight, that separation would 
have been cruelty ; and Lance had resigned him with free good 
nature, and not without hopes of Scamp's brother as an inmate, for 
Dick Graeme himself had been articled to a surveyor, and was to 
live and board with Lance, his mother declaring her conviction that 
this was the best security both for his moral, and his rather fragile 
physical, health. One of the * everlasting Lightfoots,' as Angela 
called them, had married a nice young wife, and was to occupy- the 
lower rooms, and do for them. 

So there were nine individuals seeking what pastime the junction 
afforded. The Squire — Felix's present nickname — ^was, to every 
one's amusement, seated at the table in the waiting-roon, writing a 
leader with the rapidity and abstraction peculiar to himself. A 
leather couch was occupied by everybody's hand-bags, umbrellas, 
and parasols ; a cage of doves, a basket of the more precious 
flower-roots, and another with a kitten, under Geraldine's pro- 

VOL. II. X 



Chap. 
XXXVI. 



3o6 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Cha.»», 
XXXVI. 



tection ; while she endeavoured to keep Theodore happy and not 
troublesome by a judicious dole of biscuits to be shared with 
Scamp, whom he held in a string — until, at Lance's step on the 
platform, the dog rushed out after him, dragging Theodore after 
him — Cherry limped after Theodore, Felix hurried after them all, 
and Lance took Theodore by the hand, and led boy and dog 
wherever it pleased them to go, and they could go safely, while Stella 
rushed to satisfy herself of the welfare of her kitten and birds. 

Except for such interruptions, the public was mostly concerned 
to find a place whence to behold Robina's arrival. * What will she 
come in !' said Stella. * A carriage like the Gentry one T 

* Rattling up in an old fly,' said Will, gruffly. 

* Will is jealous of the swells that have proved so attractive!' 
said Angela. * Aren't you burning with curiosity to see them ?* 

* Not in the least ! I know quite enough of them.' 

* Know them ?' 

* A couple of tufts at Christ Church. Not a bad oar — but a 
regular stuck-up fellow !' 

' Which ? or is the description collective ? ' ^ 

* Look, Angel !' cried Stella, as an open waggonette, drawn by 
two handsome black horses and full of a merry party of young 
people, came dashing up ; a cockaded servant opened the door, 
and a youth in summer costume sprang out 

* That's him 1' quoth Will. 

' Lord Ernest !' responded Angela. 

Then the well-known figure of their own Robin was handed out 
by him, and lastly one of the other damsels, whom Angel identified 
as Lady Grace. 

* They are not coming in here !' exclaimed Bill, grimly. 
Nevertheless they were ; the waggonette drove off amid nods 

and smiles, and Robin and her two companions were the next 
moment in presence, and Will was forced to shake hands with 
Lord Ernest, while Lady Grace went through the same ceremony 
with Felix and Angela, indeed with every one. * I know you all, 
already,' she said ; * I'm so glad to have seen you, if only to ware 
you not to keep fier' 

* Are you going our way ? ' asked Cherry, feeling the bright 
charm of manner. 



POSSESSION. 



307 



* No ; we only came to see her safe into your hands. Come, 
Emest!* But he was enthusiastically admiring Scamp, and in- 
quiring how to procure the like ; and it was some minutes before 
he shook hands with Robina, saying, * Then you'll let Gracie know 
whether one is to be had for love or money ? ' 

* I thought you were to have one of the brown setters ? ' 

* Well, why not?' 

* One can't have more than one dog of one's heart,' said 
Angela. 

* They must compete for that honour, then. Dogs, as well as 
other beings, must earn their place by their qualities. Eh, 
Gracie ? ' 

* You foolish boy !' was his sister's reply, * Come along Good- 
bye, my dear little Copsey. If I don't get a letter every day I shall 
be convinced that your sisters are putting onions in their eyes.' 

* What bright creatures !' exclaimed Cherry. 

* What did she call you ? ' said Will 

* Copsey. Oh, Copse, Underwood — the children all call me so. 
It is my pet name.' 

* Insufferable impudence ! ' muttered Will * And what were you 
thinking of. Lance, to talk of getting him a dog of that breed, when 
you know Graeme would as soon sell his children ?' 

* Was not he very proud of the Richborough keeper coming 
over after them ? ' 

* Those weren't sold.' 

* I beg your pardon. Dick told me what he got for them.' 

* One may do a thing for a neighbour, that one wouldn't for a 
chance stranger at a station." 

* You Red Republican!' said Angela. 

* It is enough to make one a republican in earnest.' 

* In earnest, indeed !' mischievously echoed Angela. 

* To see a shallow young tuft expecting to get whatever he 
chooses to ask for, and every one else encouraging him in it — even 
those who should have more sense ! ' 

* Meaning me !' said Lance, putting an arm in his and walking 
him off to the end of the ticket-taker's little platform ; but they 
had no sooner turned back than he exclaimed, * There's that 
fellow again ! ' 

X 3 



Chap. 
XXXVI. 






3oS 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXVI. 



There indeed he was, with * Here's your parasol, Miss Under- 
wood. Of course you know the guilty person ?' 

' Mine was almost exactly like Lady Caergwent's, thank you ! * 
said Robina, comparing the plain blue sun-shade with the one she 
held. 

* Except that hers is minus the tassel,* said Lord Ernest * You 
plainly don't understand the principle of barter and exchange.' 

* What ? Always to take the least scratchy slate, and longest 
slate pencil !' said Angel. 

* That's an essentially school illustration that / should not have 
dared to make,' said Lord Ernest. 

* Nor I,' said Angela, *but for the blissful fact that I'm no longer 
a schoolgirl' 

' I envy you,' he said, with something like a sigh, * Your wings 
are grown !* 

But there Robina uneasily said, * You are keeping Lady Caer- 
gwent all this time without her parasol.* 

* There, you see !' he returned, in a half pathetic tone of appeal, 
which made Angela laugh excessively. *But, indeed, there's no 
fear ; she and my sisters are in Long's shop, and will spend the 
next two hours in debating whether print in spots or stripes best 
conduces to the morality of their old women. That's die next 
stage after leaving school is it not?' turning to Angela; *the first 
use to be made of your liberty !' 

*To wear stars and stripes?' she asked, with a little wilful 
gloss. 

And so with desultory nonsense they went on ; Robina more 
than once interfering, and trying to send Lord Ernest off, but 
always hovering about them, in a certain ill-at-ease condition. 
Felix, having posted his leader, and taken his tickets, came out on 
the platform, and watched the group with a shade of perplexity. 

There stood Angela, the bloom of seventeen brightening her 
pale colouring, and her play of feature and beautiful mischievous 
dark grey eyes making her face full of attraction, A knowing little 
black Tyrolese hat, with a single peacock's feather, was tipped 
over her forehead ; her mass of flaxen hair was in huge loops, tied 
with crisp streamers ; and her tall figure, in the same silver-grey 
as all the sisters had agreed on, looked dashing, where Robina's — 



JPOSSESSION. 



309 



with the adjuncts of a shady hat and a good deal of falling black 
lace — ^was quietness itself. Robina's face, still round, honest, and 
rosy, had grown more womanly, and had a distressed uneasy 
aspect, as she stood a little aloof, not quite mingling in the con- 
versation, but yet not separating herself from it The youth who 
was talking to Angela was dark haired, with rather aquiline 
features, but with that peculiar whiteness of complexion which is 
one of the characteristics of old nobility, and though not exactly 
handsome, with a very pleasing countenance, and an air of birth 
and breeding, a decided contrast to the figure who regarded them 
firom a little distance. William Harewood had developed into a 
much bigger man than his brother, but he had not the advantage 
of John's neatness of figure and soldierly bearing. He had his 
mother's odd looseness of make, as if his limbs had got together 
by accident, and his clothes ditto. John's hair was of the pale 
sandy hue ) but his, including long whiskers, was of the darker, 
more fiery tint, which Lance, at his politest, termed cinnamon. 
To be sure, he had a huge massive forehead, under which his 
yellow green-flecked eyes could tAvinkle and sparkle ; and his wide 
mouth, when grinning from ear to ear, was an engine of fascinating 
drollery, while a few deep thoughts or words instantly gave majesty 
to the whole face, and extinguished all sense of its grotesqueness ; 
but at present, as he leant against one of the posts of the platform, 
a heavy ill-humour had settled upon his countenance, which made 
his whole look and air more befitting a surly navvy than a first-class 
prizeman, tutor of a distinguished college, and able to get more 
aristocratic pupils than he wanted for his intended reading-party 
on the hills of the upper Ewe. 

Felix had stood for some moments, looking on, wondering what 
it all meant, when the bell rang, the train swept up, the doors flew 
open, and John Harewood sprang out among them. 

' A crowded train T he said. 'There's only rooni for three in 
there, with Wilmet ; Krishnu and the nurse have been keeping the 
places. Here, Cherry ! — Here, Robin 1 — What, Stella ! all this 
live-stock ?* 

* Oh, yes, please, please, Robina^ take the doves ; I can't trust 
them or my pussy with any one else.' 

And past various self-concentrated people, intensely aggravated 



Chap. 
XXXVI. 



3IO 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXVI. 



at exchanging the companionship of one baby for that of two 
doves and a kitten, the sisters were bundled, to find Wilmet watch- 
ing for them, with her elder boy asleep on her knee, a great serene 
good-tempered fellow, with her features and clear skin, and though 
with true Harewood hair, a Kit to be proud of. 
' But Where's Angela ?' 

* There — running after Lance.' 

* In that hat 1 Angel ? I saw her as the train came up, and 
never thought of her belonging to us. How could you let her 
make such a figure of herself?' 

* Nature is partly accountable,' said Cherry, in an odd sort of 
voice. *And — Well, she brought home the hat, and it does 
become her. She can be very picturesque !' 

* I'm no artist,' said Wilmet, remembering her husband's caution, 
and abstaining ; then, as the train began to move, * Ah 1 Willie 
will be left behind ! No ; he made a rush ! How foolish 1 What's 
the matter with him ? He seemed in a brown study.' 

* He is out of sorts,' said Cherry. * I believe he is very much 
put out with Lance for not going to Oxford.' 

Robina looked up eagerly. * He must have wished it very 
much r she said, catching gladly at this explanation of his ill- 
humour. 

* Yes,' said Cherry ; * nothing would have so relieved him from 
the sense that Lance blighted his prospects in his service. He 
came down persuaded, I believe, that he and his big head could 
shove Lance through all the passes, just as he could put him over 
a gap.' 

' Everything comes so easy to him, that he has no notion how 
hard it is to Lance,' said Robina. * John says Lance is right, but 
I am sorry — ' 

* So Felix wrote,' said Wilmet, * and one can only acquiesce. 
Oh, and before this good little traveller wakes, tell me all about the 
dinner.' 

' There's more that you have not heard about,* said Cherry, 
triumphantly. 

' The inkstand !' said Stella. * O sister 1 they have given him 
the most splendid inkstand !* 

* Who ? The Bexley people ?' 



POSSESSION, 



311 



* Yes/ said Cherry, * a regular testimonial. They kept it a great 
secret ; only Mr. Lamb came blushing in one day and borrowed 
one of the old books with the coat-of-arms in it, so that I thought 
something was brewing. Half the town subscribed — ^all Felix's 
young men's class, and quantities of his old scholars ; and there's 
a little silver knight on the top, with a frosty silver pennon with 
the Rood upon it' 

* The Pursuivant himself?' said Robin. 

* Yes, standing on a pedestal — a match-box, I believe, with such 
an inscription on it that Felix is ashamed of it ; and we have had 
such a fight about its standing in the drawing-room or being sup- 
pressed in his study, that Felix said at last that we were like 
Joseph's brothers in prosperity, and wanted the warning, "See 
that ye fall not out by the way." ' 

But the quarrel had not been a serious one, to judge by her 
happy face. 

* It is very nice, very nice,' said Wilmet, ' and I am not at all 
surprised. I thought they must do something of the kind. Was 
it given at the dinner ?' 

* Yes ; it was brought in when Mr. Postlethwayte began his 
speech- He is Mayor this year, and he was so kind —he came and 
asked us whether we should object to go with Mrs. Froggatt, to sit 
in the gallery. Object^ indeed ! I wouldn't have missed it for 
anything in the world; and we were just above our dear old 
fellow's head, where he could not see us, which was all the better 
for him.' 

' Was he nervous ?' 

* No ; he said there was a reality of kindness about it all that 
made him feftl it as friend to friend. So the Minsterham reporter 
said too. Felix brought him in to tea, because we are to have his 
report for Pur. He said he had never seen such genuine feeHng 
on all sides. He wanted to call it an ovation. And Felix puzzled 
him so by declaring that inapplicable,, unless it had all been 
mutton.' 

* And Mr. Bolton did send ever so much venison,' put in Stella ; 
* and a letter besides, because he could not come himself. Mr. 
Postlethwa)rte began by reading it.' 

* Yes ; that was all the right and proper thing,' said Cherry ; 



Chap. 
XXXVL 



313 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXVI. 



* ail civility about his valuable supporter. As well he might say, 
for hasn't Pur fought for him through thick and thin — ^and suffered 
too I But it was Mr. Postlethwayte who had his heart in it 
There, Stella, you can say it all off by heart like a little live page 
of Pur. Tell Wilmet what he said about example.' 

* He said,' rehearsed Stella, * that Felix had set a noble example 
of considering no means of independence derogatory, and only 
manifesting his birth in the high sense of honour which, in the 
name of his fellow-citizens, he confessed to have been no slight 
stimulus.' 

* Well done ! That was much for Mr. Postlethwayte to say.' 

* Oh ! everybody said everything !' answered Cherry. * Mr. 
Bruce went on about the paper. Poor dear old Pur, he never had 
so much good said of him before, and every word true ; but the 
real beauty of the thing was the Fr6gs.' 

* I am so glad Mr. Froggatt could go.' 

* He said he would not have missed if he had had one foot in 
the grave. I really was afraid, once or twice, Mrs. Froggatt would 
have embraced us then and there in the gallery, before all the 
people. How she did cry, dear old lady !' 

* She was thinking of her own sons, poor dear !' 

* Partly \ but I do think half was pride and pleasure, and that 
sort of feeling that grows up of unanimity. I can't describe, but 
it is like a spirit mastering all. You will read in the report ; but 
it does not give a notion of the kind of glow, and the ecstasy of 
the cheer, when Mr. Underwood of Vale Leston was given out— 
the looks of all the faces ! Oh ! I can't describe it — one seemed 
obliged to sob for gratitude 1 And then, in the lull at last came 
his voice, so clear and sweet and strong, and taking them all by 
surprise. Now, Stella, go on !' 

* Felix stood up,' said Stella, with a pretty little tone of enihu 
siastic imitation in her low sweet voice, * and said perhaps it was 
not regular to criticise the manner of such an honour as they had 
done him, but he must say that he had rather they had proposed 
him as Underwood of 14 High Street For if his good friends 
thought they were disposing of him with a long farewell, he must 
tell them they would not be rid of him so soon. For he said that 
for the means ot fulfilling his new duties he must look in great 



POSSESSION. 



313 



measure to his old sphere, and their unvarying friendliness. What 
a noise they did make then ! and when he went on to thank them 
for their kindness in treating him as one of themselves, though 
without any claim of long standing. And then wasn't it nice 
when he went on about Mr. Froggatt T 

' Can't you see, Wilmet,* continued Geraldine, * how being alto- 
gether moved and excited, all sorts of things came out that he 
never could have said in cold blood ? About the gentleman he 
said it was all owing to — ^his accepting him when he was a raw 
friendless lad, giving him an opening for exertion — patience — 
kindness. You'll read it, but if you could only have seen and 
heard when he said he should always esteem the connecting of 
their names among the dearest honours of his life, as it had 
certainly been the proudest He told us afterwards that he saw a 
face looking as if it sounded like humbug ; so he added louder, 
" Yes, as much the proudest and dearest, as what one may hope 
is personal is better than what comes by the accident of birth." 
And he could not believe that any honour could bestow on him 
the pleasure he had felt when he first saw the names of Froggatt 
and Underwood together. Whatever he had done or hoped to do, 
hfe felt to be due not only to the first start, but to the long thorough 
training in diligent habits of business. As Mr. Bevan said after- 
wards, it was the most beautiful outpouring of gratitude without 
false shame. And Mr. Froggatt, who had not the least expected 
it, was quite past speaking. " Gentlemen, my feelings — " he said, 
and broke down, and every one cheered, and he tried again, but 
only got as far as " Gentlemen, my feelings — ^" and put his hand 
on Mr. Ryder's arm, and begged him to say it for him, something 
about " a thousandfold repaid." Mr. Ryder made a set speech of 
it, all very true and good, really the best of all, looking so in the 
Pursuivant, but nothing to " Gentlemen, my feelings — ^" and the 
great sob.' 

* Dear old gentleman 1 is he more reconciled to the losing you 
all?' 

* Yes, he is so much pleased to keep Lance, and that Felix does 
not throw it all up. Indeed, if we could have given up Bexley it 
would have been a great difficulty, for Felix feels that he took the 
duties of a son upon him.' 



Chap 
XXXVL 



iM 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXVI. 



' It does to a certain degree qualify one's regret/ said Wilmet 

* As John says, one would not take the responsibility of saying a 
word of remonstrance \ he is no fanciful lad, but a man well used 
to practical questions ; but I still am sorry he should so cripple 
himself by acting on scruples Papa never entertained/ 

* We can hardly be sure of that/ said Cherry. * That old letter 
to Mr. Staples looked as if he were doubtful. When I told Sister 
Constance — I could not help it, though Felix had not given me 
leave — she seemed quite overcome, and then she pointed out how 
right it had all come, for in the ordinary course of things most 
likely this restitution would not have been possible. If he had 
been brought up as an eldest son, and we had all had an expensive 
education like other people, not only should we all have grown 
into acquiescence in an unavoidable sort of abuse, but there 
would have been none of the power of independence that enables 
him to do this; and there would have been settlements and all 
manner of things to tie it up. Remember, too, that dear Papa 
was always thankful that he did not have the trial of unmixed 
prosperity/ 

Those were the last words before there was a slackening of 
speed \ Wilmet resumed the one Kit, Stella the other, Robina 
wielded the doves, and gathered the parcels, a tall fair head under 
a big black hat nodded and smiled welcome, and the little station 
seemed to flash with greeting, as in another moment the halt was 
made, Clement wrenched open the door, swung out Stella, holding 
fast by the basket, and set her down with a kiss, next putting forth 
a long tender pair of arms to lift Cherry down, and then receiving 
his nephew and holding him wliile Wilmet and Robina extracted 
the other impedimenta, and the other two-thirds of the party hurried 
up, amid touching of hats and services of porters, Bernard and 
Angela flying upon one another, and luggage pouring out of the 
van. 

* I hope there's room,' said Clement, surve)ring the numbers. 

* I brought everything on wheels that I could get beasts for.* 

And making Kit over to his father's hand, he conveyed Cherry 
to a comer of the big barouche with post-horses, and then hurried 
back to pack in Wilmet and her boy. He would have put in 
Robina and Major Harewood, but they both cried out that this was 



POSSESSION. 



315 



the place for Squire himself. Clement and John dragged him 
from some selection of boxes in a recusant but passive state, and 
deposited him opposite to Geraldine, as she merrily called him * to 
enjoy the novel sensation of riding in one's own coach.' 

* Theodore ! * he remonstrated ; but Wilmet's eyes grew uneasy, 
and Clement said, * Better let Lance and me take him. You'll 
have a noisy welcome, and he had better not have the first brunt 
Here, Tedo, jump up by Lance ; see my big horse 1 Ha ! I see 
Angel and Bear have climbed to the box. Now then, Robin, in 
with you ! Can you make room for Stella ? * 

So having packed the barouche, Clement sent it off with a dash, 
taking John and Will Harewood as well as his two brothers in that 
dog-cart that fitted him so oddly, while Sibby, Krishnu, the nurse 
and baby, and the luggage, were disposed of in a sort of break 
which would hold everything, and came soberly behind with a 
farm-horse. 

It had been well done of the brothers to relieve Felix from the 
charge of keeping the peace between Theodore and Kit, and 
leave him free to enjoy the arrival with his sisters, and to be happy 
in having Wilmet with him, the sharer in all his earlier exertions, 
and the best able to enter into his recollections, though at first she 
failed to recognise the old landmarks he pointed out, and Cherry 
sat dreamily smiling, owning that she recollected nothing in 
particular, but all was lovely and delicious, and not like a strange 
place, but as if she belonged to it. 

Then came the summit of the hill, the church tower, and the 
river, and the rich valley stretched before them ; and as there was 
a halt to put on the drag, up came on the breeze a clash and peal. 
* The bells ! the bells !' cried Stella ; and Wilmet held up the 
finger to her boy, * The bells. Kit, the bells for Uncle Felix I 
Listen 1' 

* Don't you ever forget,' cried Cherry, bending to kiss the 
wondering child; and grasping Felix's hand in irrepressible 
agitation, * Oh ! how often I have wondered whether we should 
live to see this day ! " 

* Thank Heaven that you share it, Sweetheart,' fervently 
whispered Felix; while Bernard and Angela turned round, and 
screamed to them to look. 



Chap. 

xxxvu 



3X0 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXVI. 



And there was a big arch all across the road, all greenery, big 
white and orange lilies, and * Welcome* and ' F. C. U.'s, and a flag 
on the church tower, and a tremendous onset of drums and 
trumpets, obstreperously hailing the conquering hero, who had tc 
take off his hat and bow to the mounted array of some dozen 
tenants and their sons, all the cavalry of the estate turned out to 
meet him. * Master Kistopher' was hardened enough to military 
bands not to mind this at all ; but it was well that Theodore was a 
little behind, for the lungs of all Vale Leston Abbas, and more 
too, united in the cheer as the arch was reached * Oh ! I hope 
they won't take out the horses ! ' cried Cherry, more than half 
frightened, while Bernard and Angel danced up and down with 
ecstatic cries of * Jolly ! jolly ! Here's the whole place turned out! 
They'll draw us up to the house ! Hurrah ! hurrah ! * bowing so 
graciously, that Cherry, in a counter paroxysm of diversion, called 
to them that they would be taken for the man and maid if they 
appropriated all the enthusiasm. 

Happily no one was venturesome enough to meddle with the 
horses, but the whole population attended the carriage up to the 
house, making so much discordant uproar, that the reception was 
a very questionable pleasure to the nervous ; Cherry was between 
laughter and sobs, and Wilmet had to spend much pains in 
persuading her boy that it was all excellent fun. 

At last, upon the stone steps stood Felix, with Cheny on his 
arm, Theodore in his hand, nine altogether out of his twelve 
brothers and sisters round him, on this the threshold of the home 
of his forefathers. There he stood, bare-headed, moist-eyed, 
thanks to Heaven swelling his heart, thanks to man fluttering on 
his Hp, as he heard the fresh shout of welcome, and the old men's 

* There he is ! God bless him !' 
* Well may they say so 1' whispered John Harewood to his wife. 

* Here, at twenty-nine, he stands a stainless knight, with a stainless 
shield, as though he had not had to fight his way, and bear up all 
these around him I' 

Felix meantime, withstanding Theodore's terrified tugs at his 
hand, put him into Sibb/s care, to be taken as far as possible from 
the human greeting, and to enjoy that of the bells ; Clement, with 
a prevision of the welcome, had provided a supply of cider, where- 



POSS£SS/OAr. 



317 



with he and the other gentlemen proceeded to administer draughts 
to the health of the new master, who was allowed to do nothing 
but stand on the step to make a tableau, as Bill said, with his 
sisters, and return by look and gesture the tokens of welcome and 
the cheer, which Clement, gathering his choir, contrived to render 
considerably less inharmonious. 

Then Felix, feeling that some words were due, and trained a 
little by town-council exigencies, spoke forth. * Thanks, thanks 
with all our hearts, my good friends and neighbours. We did not 
expect so hearty a welcome, and I am sure we shall never forget 
it As far as an earnest wish and purpose to do my best will 
carry me, I will try to deserve it ; but you must bear with me if I 
often unavoidably disappoint you, and do not come up to the old 
golden age of this house. Any way, let us do our best, one and 
all, to live here to the glory of God, and in friendliness to one 
another. Then it will go hard if we are not very happy together.' 

The bright smile and joyous hope in his face awoke a shout of 

* Yes, yes P and another cheer, followed by a farmer's voice 
proposing the health of the ladies, with the homely addition from 
another quarter, * Bless their sweet faces T and an observation 
which the Major delighted to overhear — ' That there tall one, with 
the child by her side, was a right-down comely one, just such as 
our ladies up here did used to was.' 

Health to *Mr. Eddard' followed, surprising the new comers 
who had not learnt to accept the Vicar's parish name. It drained 
his provision of liquor, and gave him the opportunity of saying, 

* Thank you sincerely, dear friends. We are old friends, you 
know, and I need say no more, only that now we have seen the 
good time coming, you had better wish the travellers good-night, 
and let my sisters rest You will all be better acquainted soon.' 

* Well managed, Mr. Edward,' said Felix, smiling, as Clement, 
for the first time able to speak to him after dismissing his flock, 
ran up the steps looking heated and radiant 

* There's another thing I've done, Felix,' he said, rather breath- 
lessly. * I've got a supper for the ringers in the long room. 
Martha is much displeased about it, but it is the only chance of 
breaking the neck of the drinking at the Rood without making 
you unpopular.' 



Chap. 
XXXVI. 



3i8 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXVI. 



* All right; Clem, thank you. Well ! you look better than when 
I saw you last !' 

* Tm quite jolly, thank you;' and indeed, the fagged air of 
depression had changed to hope and sunshine; he had grown 
quite sunburnt, and as Cherry followed up the compliment, had 
turned into a vigorous country parson instead of a white town- 
br6d one. He was acting as a sort of host * This way, Wilmet 
You must settle about the rooms. Cherry. It was all guess- 
work between Martha and me. There's some tea in the drawing- 
room by this time.' 

He led them quickly through a large hall, paved with black and 
white lozenges, into a sort of conservatory passage, glazed on one 
side, and containing old orange-trees in tubs, and more recent 
fuchsias and geraniums, a great curtain of lilac Bougainvillia 
drooping at one end — ^making the girls shriek with ecstasy, and 
reproach Felix with never having told them of it. 

* I am afraid I had forgotten it,' said he. *I never went into 
this part of the house on my last two visits.' 

* It was Jane's territory (Mrs. Fulbert),' said Clement, * and I 
am afraid she has dismantled the room a good deal. The one 
hundred pounds you allowed her to choose as her own furniture 
came chiefly out of that, and the valuable things poor Fulbert had 
in his smoking-room. It was an odd choice, but I thought you 
would not mind that, and the valuation man looked sharp after 
her. I kept out of the way of the squabble.' 

' I know where I am now,' said WilmeL * There's the garden- 
door at the end. And here is the drawing-room door. Ah! it 
does look empty.' 

'Oh, never mind tables and chairs. The window!' cried 
Angela, fl)dng forward to the eastern one, a deep bay, cushioned 
round, and looking out on the sloping lawn, gay with flower-beds, 
in pleasant evening shadow, the river sparkling beyond, and with 
a sidelong view of the bridge on the one hand and the church on the 
other. Two other windows looked to the south, also into the garden. 

* At least she has left the piano,' said Lance. 

* It was valued at eighty pounds, which would have made too 
large a hole,' said Clement. * Also she has left a chair for you to 
sit on, Cherry. A « you tired ?' 



POSSESSION, 



3^9 



* I haven't time 1 I can't grasp it ! Home ! So exquisite, and 
all ours. Oh I the pictures ! That lady, with the bent head over 
the rose, and the arch pensive eyes ! She can't choose but be a 
Sir Joshua.' 

* Right, Cherry,' said Lance, mounting a chair and turning to 
the back; * " Lady Geraldine Underwood, 1770. J. Reynolds."' 

* The Irishwoman that gave you eyes and mischief. Your best 
possessions,' said Will, 

He looked at Angela. Did he forget that neither Irish eyes nor 
mischief were Robina's portion ? 

At that moment Stella, who had gone up to the hearth, ex- 
claimed, * Edgar I' then checked herself, at the sound of the seldom 
uttered name ; but Felix and Wilmet had both sprung to look. 

* I remember,* said the latter. 

* Is it my father Y whispered Stella. 

It was one of a pair of the largest size of miniatures in Ross's 
most exquisite style of finish, thirty years back, just before the 
marriage of Edward and Mary Underwood. He, still a layman, 
was in a shooting-coat, with a dog by his side, and with the look 
of life and light, youth and sunshine, that had never left him 
— ^indeed, none but the httle ones who had never really seen 
him could have hesitated for a moment ; but it was different with 
the fellow-portrait If Felix and Wilmet had not remembered 
* Mamma's picture,' they would hardly have connected the bright 
soft smiling rose-tinted girl with the toil-worn faded image on 
their memories. Wilmet^s tears gathered; and Felix murmured 
to Cherry, * One feels that the life was killed out of her ! She 
looks as if one would have died to save her a breath of care ! 
Oh ! to have brought her back !' 

And with a wistful sigh he looked at Stella, the most like the 
portrait, though none of the sisters really reproduced it ; indeed, 
the peculiar caressing and relying expression could hardly have 
been brought out, except by a petted shielded life, free from all 
care or hardness. Wilmet was on a more majestic and com- 
manding scale ; something of the darling child expression was in 
Geraldine, but intellect and illness had changed both the mould 
and colouring of the features. Robina was of the round-faced, 
round-eyed type, only refined ; Angela like no one but Clement ; 



Chap. 
XXXVI. 



po 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXVI, 



and even Stella was not only too small, but too thoughtful, to 
recall that flower-like careless loveliness of Mary Underwood's 
maiden bloom. 

* It was hard on you not to have had these/ said John. 

* I suppose/ said Felix, * that they were done for my uncle, and 
that my father thought them too valuable to take away.* 

* Better so,' said Cherry, quietly. 

* Yes,' said Lance ; * to have had these before one's eyes would 
have made one ready to fly at that man's throat,' glancing at the 
old squire in uniform. 

* And now/ said Cherry, * they are smiling their greeting to us.' 
'You'll turn out the Squire, won't you, Felix?* added Lance. 

* You won't keep him here, gloating on his victims ?* 

* Certainly not, if he suggests such ideas,' said Felix. * It is 
Cherr/s domain, though, and she must decide whether to banish 
him.' 

*Ohl oh!' screamed Angela, who had meanwhile- followed 
Bernard out of the room. * Come here, all of you ! Felix, we 
must have a ball ! Nature and fate decree it' 
. Felix laughed, gave Cherry his arm, and the procession moved 
on. * Tripp says this conservatory was glazed for a surprise to my 
mother while she was on her wedding tour,' said Clement * You 
know this wing is the recent part of the house, built by my old 
great-uncle, when people had come to have large notions as to 
drawing and dining rooms. Here's the dining-room, but we shall 
go in there for severe tea presently. This is the middle period, 
the Stewart style part,' as they came back into the wainscotted hall, 
rising to the top of the house, with a staircase opposite to the 
front-door, and a handsome balustraded gallery running round the 
first floor. 

But Angela's discovery was a great arched doorway, mantled 
only by a curtain, and leading into the only really ancient part of 
the building (except one turret). It was a very long room, with 
dark oak floor, six arched and cusped windows looking into as 
many arches of the cloister that ran along it, and black wainscot 
panelled walls, and oak beams, painted with coats-of-anns. So 
long was it, that the billiard table at one end, ajod at the other 
Clement's table laid out for the ringers' supper, made little show in 



POSSESSION. 



321 



it ; and Angela, pouncing on Will Harewood, waltzed wildly with 
him up and down the shining floor, while Bernard learnedly 
expounded to Stella the games at billiards he had enjoyed with 
Mr. Somers there, and Lance went straight to the organ at the 
further end. 

* Ah 1 if you can do any good with that !' said Clement * I 
have been trying, but have only driven it and myself distracted !' 

* How well I know the place T cried Wilmet. * Oh, if Alda 
could see it! I remember your driving us all in a team here, 
Fee ! — Yes, Elit, trot, trot, all along. It is as if I saw you. Cherry, 
taking your first run alone there.* 

* Better than now, I fear,* said Felix. * Why, Cherry, woman, 
we must lay down bridges of matting for you,* as he felt heir clutch 
his arm. 

* Are all the floors so dreadful ?* she sighed, as Clement next 
opened from the hall door into the library, with only a bit of 
carpet as an island in the middle. The library ranged with the 
drawing and dining rooms, though older. It had a window and a 
door into the cloister, and two windows to the east, and was 
surrounded with caged book-shelves. Here stood an harmonium, 
and the table and deep window-seats were piled with the mis- 
cellaneous parish appurtenances of the nineteenth-century pastor. 

* You had better have this room. Felix,' said Clement -, * there 
was so much to do that I could not get my traps moved after 
Somers went* 

To which Felix replied by insisting that Clement should retain 
it The door into the cloister, communicating with the church and 
churchyard, made it particularly ehgible for the Vicar; and the 
study, on the opposite side of the hall, the Squire's favourite sitting- 
room, with the two south windows, would suit him and * Pur,' — 
the better that the adjoining room, where old Fulbert had slept 
in his infirm days, would serve as a housekeeper's room for Sibby 
and a retreat and home for Theodore. It opened into a passage 
leading to the ofiices. 

* Never mind them now,* said Clement * Let Martha recover 
before we face her. I don't know which she lesents most, the 
supper, or my sending in Kerenhappuch to help her. You all will 
be glad to find your nests, ladies,* he ^dded, as poor Cherry 

VOL. II. Y 



Chap. 
XXXVl. 



322 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXVI. 



surmounted each slippery shallow step, clinging hard to Felix's 
arm, while Angela and Stella had flown all round the upper story, 
and were helping Bill to laugh at the round-eyed range of ancestors 
in the corridor, 

* Here I put you, our grand company, Mettie,* said Clement, 
opening the door of the handsome bedroom of the drawing-room 
wing ; * the nursery is up over, as I daresay you remember.' 

'As if I did not!' 

And up to it with one accord they all went. Cherry and all — for 
the stairs were close by, and of deaL At the moment of entrance, 
Felix, Wilmet, and Cherry, broke into a simultaneous shout of 
delight, as they beheld, staring at them in open-nostrilled pride, 
the rocking-horse of dieir youth. In one moment Cherry's arms 
were round its neck, Wilmet had her boy on the saddle, Felix was 
gently moving it, and patting its dappled sides with the tenderness 
of ancient love. 

* This at least is unprofaned ! I suppose no child has mounted 
it since we five hung rocking on it altogether that last morning !' 

* I should like a ride now, dear old Gee-gee,' said Cherry, half 
sentimentally, as Kit insisted on being taken down to go to his 
Emma and his tea ; and to her surprise and flight, her brothers 
snatched her up, and deposited her on its back, between screaming 
and laughing ; and hardly was she lifted down, before Wilmet was 
on her knees, as Lance said, worshipping the doll's house over 
which she and Alda had broken their hearts, and setting all the 
the chairs and tables on their legs again. 

The very cribs in the inner nursery were all in their old places ; 
and to the great amusement of the rest, the four who had the 
honour of being natives, each sat down upon his or her own ; and 
Felix and Wilmet had quite a little quarrel which owned the 
favoured cane-sided one, where one could poke one's fingers 
through. 

* One's fingers — or rather two's fingers — are rather too big to 
decide that question now,' said Felix. * However, you can take 
possession by deputy, Mettie, and some day Alda shall fill them alL' 

' Ah ! to meet her here I' 

But there was one more sadly missed — ^the King Oberon of the 
nursery, A^hose star of cracked glass still marked one of the panes 



Poss£ssioj\r, 



323 



Kit was the first to see it. trot up to point, and say * Naughty 1* 
but no one answered him, and Felix struggled back to a cheerful 
tone to say, * After all, cane crib and all, I was not here to the last ; 
I slept in Papa's dressing-room after Clem came to the fore. * 

* Mamma's room was the one over the library,' said Cherry, as 
they descended. 

* Here it is!' with transomed windows, trailed over with vine 
and Virginia creeper, one towards the river, and two towards the 
church, and Cherry's own particular boxes were in it * Oh ! my 
dear Lord Chamberlain,' she cried, * this is the place the master 
ought to have !* 

* I had rather be on the other side. Cherry,' said Felix. * It is 
better for Theodore that Clem and I should have rooms opening 
into one another, as he will look to him when I sleep out' 

* And I thought the dressing-room would serve for Stella,' added 
Clement * Why, she is quite pink V 

* Have I really a room to myself?' 

* There are enough in the house for that, my little Star,' said 
Felix. * I suppose you will hardly make a further progress now, 
Whiteheart ?' 

* Only let me show her the Prior's room,' said Clement, taking 
her to the floor above the billiard-room. It had been a smoking- 
room in the last reign ; the windows were hung with heavy curtains ; 
there was both a stove and a cheerful grate in it, a thick carpet 
and cushions in the windows, and a high screen, to cut off the 
draught from the little window into the south transept, where the 
Prior of old used to hear Mass, if indisposed. 

* I have been purifpng this room, literally and metaphorically,* 
Slid Clement, thinking of the pictures he had removed, and the 
air he had let in. It will make Cherry a capital painting-room.' 

* Oh ! but it is too much ! You must not give me all the best 
rooms in the house.' 

* Who should have them but our lady of the house ?* cried both 
brothers. 

* And after all, there are conveniences in not painting in the 
drawing-room,' said Cherry. "* May I tell. Lance ?' as they both 
fell into a transport of laughter. * You must know, Willie tliere 
insisted that I should do Cleomenes after the battle, when he 

y 2 



Chap. 
XXXVI. 



( 324 ) 




f 325 ) 




326 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXVI. 



would not go into his deserted house. He used so much moral 
compulsion, that though I knew that a Greek warrior was as much 
beyond me as an archangel, I only feebly objected the want of a 
model ; and Lance, in a spirit of classic friendship, said he would 
sit So one afternoon — there he stood, with his trousers turned 
up to his knees, and his shirt-sleeves up to his shoulders, no shoes 
or stockings — the table-cover gracefully disposed with a big shawl- 
brooch on one shoulder for a chlamys — cleaning on Sibby's long 
broom-stick by way of a spear, endeavouring to compose his face 
as if his wife were dead, and his children in captivity, and he just 
beaten horse and foot, and going after them.' 

' Cleomenes is no laughing matter,* sternly interposed Bill. 

* Cleomenes was not, but Lance was. Well, I was just making 
a study of his foot, never dreaming of anybody getting in but by 
the street-door, when of * all things in the world, up comes 
Miss Pearson herself — Miss Pearson, senior! and three girls! 
They had met a mad ox in the street, or some trifle of that sort, 
had bolted into the shop nearly in fits, and this unthinking Felix 
had popped them through the office to be still more scandalized 
upstairs.' 

* Poor Miss Pearson!' said Lance; * I shall never forget her 
gentle " Do I intrude ?" going oflf into the wildest scream. And 
I couldn't escape by the other door, for Cherry had her easel up 
against it. She could only shriek " He's sitting I" technically, you 
see, like an old hen, or a schoolmaster, for I wasn't sitting at all' 

* Well, you need have no such catastrophes here,* said Felix, 
when the laughter began to subside ; * but your progress has been 
long enough ; now we have landed you. You younger fiy, you 
must shake into your rooms as you choose." 

* I secure the octagon turret-room at the end of the corridor,* 
cried Angela. 

*And I shall hold to my room with the rum ceiling,' saia 
Bernard. ' It is as good as the barrack at home ! Come and see, 
Lance.' 

* I ordered tea at seven,' said Clement, * that Felix might be 
ready to speak to the ringers after it You must take us in hand, 
now. Cherry ; that is my last domestic order.* 

So Cherry was left with her little sister. There was a little 



/>OSSESSIO//. 



3^7 



bustle of unpacking at first ; but by the time Cherry was ready, 
she missed all sounds of Stella, and looking into her room, saw 
the child standing by the window, gazing intently out in a kind of 
dream, which ended in her running up to Cherry with a gasp 
of ecstasy, and hiding her face against her. *0 Cherry!* she 
said, *I did not know it could be so — so — so exquisite !' and her 
bosom heaved with the struggle of new emotion — she who had 
seen nothing but Bexley suburbs in her little Hfe. 

*It does seem almost impossible to believe we are really always 
to live with these lovely sights/ said Cherry. * It is like getting 
into the Promised Land ! Why, my Star, it quite overcomes 
you !' 

' Oh ! if Tedo could — could — ' It was a sort of moan that 
burst from Stella, followed by a shower of tears. 

* Ah ! Stella, sweet ! We all of us miss somebody. It is 
not the Promised Land yet, for there you know there will be 
Ephphatha indeed !' and Cherry strangled her own sob, as her 
supplication went up that all might be as well there with her 
heart's grief as with Stella's. ' Besides,' she added, cheerfully, 

* Theodore will be happier here ; he will have more liberty and 
more pets.* 

*And he likes the bells,* said Stella; but there was a wistful 
yearning look on the sweet face, as if the excess of pleasure 
increased the longing for companionship in her twin. 

Cherry took her hand to encounter the dread waste of slipperiness 
before her ; but in further proof who was the lady and the darling 
of the house, no sooner did her door open, than Felix hastened 
across from his room, Clement strode up from the library, John 
Harewood*s head emerged from his dressing-room door; but 
Lance was beforehand with all, for he was close by, helping 
Golightly the gardener to carry the boxes as near as possible 
to their destinations. 

He bore her off in triumph, with so much laughter, that the 
consequence was a slip, and a shout of warning displeasure from 
the elder brothers. 

* No fault of his,* cried back Cherry, holding tight to him. 

* Only if four brothers at once will make me so proud, I can but 
have a fall* 



Chap. 

xxxyi. 



328 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chah. 
XXXVI. 



* Aren't you prouder now?* said Lance, as they trooped into 
the dining-room. * There's a table to sit down at the head of 1' 

What a glittering array it was of glass and silver and brightly- 
coloured china ; and the profusion of country fare — roast fowl, 
green pease, yellow butter in ice, virgin combs of transparent 
liquid golden honey, mountains of strawberries, great jugs of milk 
and cream. There was no formality indeed in the Amen that 
responded to their chaplain's grace. 

* Good creatures verily,' ejaculated Felix, as he took up carving- 
knife and fork. 

* Is it a feast for his birthday ? ' whispered Stella, * or is it to be. 
always like this ? ' 

* You see," said Cherry to her neighbour, the Major, * we 
remember when we used to have a quart of blue milk, and save 
for the babies.' 

*I say, Felix,' cried Angela, *have we got a farm, with cows, 
and turkey-cocks, and turnips, and all sorts of jolly things?* 

* Stunning ! ' said Bernard ; * and an old bull with a ring in his 
nose, that would toss you as soon as look at you i * 

* That home farm is a difficulty,' said Felix. * I believe I ought 
to get rid of it, for I know nothing of farming, and have no time 
to learn.' 

* Oh, let me manage it, if that's all I* said AngeL * I'll get 
a smock-frock and big shoes, and a long whip, and get up at four 
in the morning.* 

'Seriously, I hope you can keep it in your own hands,' said 
Clement. * There's no getting milk otherwise. You might as 
well ask the farmers' wives for their hearts' blood. There's a 
child that I baptized soon afler I came ; the mother is sickly, and 
had lost two before. I found her feeding it with some mess 
of pounded acorns, and recommended milk, but found I might as 
well have talked of melted gold. Even when I offered to pay, it 
could not be done — ^would break up the cheese-making. I thought 
of buying a cow and some hay, and putting her in the Vicarage; 
but when I saw a great jug of hot milk come in with my coffee 
every morning, I ended by getting a mug and carrying it down 
every day ; and really the child has lived.' 

* But, Clem,' said Angel, with a sort of affectation of solenmity, 



POSSESSION, 



329 



* wasn't that a difficult case of conscience ? Weren't you stealing 
Mr. Underwood's milk ?' 

*No; for our old rSgime— not to say St. Matthew's— had 
taught him to go without,' said Felix, smihng, for he had seen the 
mug in force. 

* Till the new Squire came, and I could unblushingly prey on 
him,' rejoined Clement. 

* Whereby I propose,' said Major Harewood, *that we drink 
the health of the said new Squire — with all birthday wishes — ^and 
long may he reign !' 

* All birthday wishes, Felix,' responded Wilmet, who, like some 
of the others, had begun tea with a glass of claret * Do you 
remember this day thirteen years, when Robin did not know what 
a cold chicken was ?' 

* I remember it well,' said Felix, gravely. * It seems to me to 
have been the last day that I was a boy. Thank you,' as each 
bright face nodded at him. * Haven't I made speeches enough ? 
Well, then. Ladies and Gentlemen, many thanks to you for 
coming here to-day. It's little good this place would be to 
me without you. And — ' from the playfulness a sudden emotion 
came over and thrilled his voice — * may God grant we may still 
be all as happy together as we have been these thirteen years 1' 

* I would not have missed this for anything ! ' was John's very 
warm aside ; but a little afraid of emotion, he added, * Yes, you 
are worth looking at. You certainly are a right goodly family.' 

* Seen in the light of prosperity,' said Cherry. 

* He need not be accused of that,' said Wilmet * He never 
saw so many of us together before.' 

* Except the first time,' said John, * when I thought you would 
never have done coming into the room.' 

* Poor John ! ' said Felix, * I pity your blushes. I wonder you 
were not frightened away at once ! ' 

* And it was not Robin's fault,' said Cherry. * Do you re- 
member, Bobbie, the agony you were in, till you grew desperate, 
and slopped Clem and me by speaking out ? ' 

* Robin could have had nothing to speak about,' said Wilmet, 
with a resumption of her old manner that tickled the others 
exceedingly. 



Chap. 
XXXVI. 



330 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXVI. 



* /«deed ! * quoth Lance. * Bill remembers his confidences by 
the river/ 

* Moonshine ! * growled Bill, but scarce heeded, for John had 
turned to his wife with a droll injured air of condolence, sa)dng, 
VAh! my dear, these httle secrets will come out; but we must 
make the best of it !' 

* And talking of rivers and moonshine,* cried Angela, * we'll 
have a turn in the boat. Hurrah for the boat 1 Come, Bear — come, 
Bill — I want my first lesson in rowing.' 

* Stay,' said Felix ; * that eddy where the Leston comes down 
makes the river not safe when you do not know it Now, girls, all 
of you, remember once for all that I desire you will never go in 
the boat without some one who can swim, nor take Theodore 
without me.' 

He seldom gave a direct command, but there was enforcement 
in his tone ; and John added, * Quite right I see it is a stream 
not to be trusted.' 

* It is just a device to hinder our going at all,' ^>outed Angela. 

* And swimming is a mere hindrance to drowning aisy, if you 
are to be drownded,' added Bill, 

' Do you know,' added Clement, * that 

" To Leston and Ewe 
Underwood pays due," 

in every generation?' 

* Where did you pick up that adage ? ' asked Felix. 

* A prophecy, a prophecy ! ' cried Angela. * What fun ! I shall 
hold up my head more than ever, now we have a saw of our 
own ! What fun I " 

"Where did you hea-- it?' repeated Cherry, who as well 
as Stella looked discomfited. 

* I did not hear it,' said Clement, * the people were far too 
polite to tell me; but it was administered to Somers by way 
of warning, after some eccentric proceedings in the boat with 
Bear. They say an Underwood is drowned in every generation — 
I suppose since the sacrilege.' 

* Prove the fact,' said Felix. 

* Somers and I did try to make out,' said Clement, 'between 
registers and monuments. We found one Lancelot in 1750, 



POSSESSION. 



331 



with a note " Drowned " attached to his name, and a conglomera- 
hon of urns and water-nymphs — Leston and Ewe, I presume — 
scrambling about his monument in the south transept ; and the 
old Squire had told me that the crayon young lady in a cap 
in the library was our old great-uncle's intended, but was drowned 
in crossing the ferry at Ewmouth, before the bridge was built 
She is not very pretty ; and I was going to have put a photograph 
in her place, but it seemed to me profane, when she had hung 
there so many years for the poor old faithful lover to look at* 

* The Ewe seems to have been in overhaste to claim its due, 
before she was an Underwood,' said Angela. 

* Quite enough for an adage,' said John ; * one real Underwood, 
and one intended.' 

* However, as I do not mean the rivers to get their due through 
any fool-hardiness,' said Felix, * you must attend to my rule.' 

* And I think it renders boating reasonably safe,' added Clement 
* There are no holes, and the only danger is when there has been 
a good deal of rain to make the currents strong ; otherwise it is 
quite safe for a tolerable swimmer. I learnt at Cambridge, and 
Bear is a perfect cork; but I did not know you could swim. 
Fee.' 

* I improved my opportunities at Ewmouth five years ago, when 
unluckily Lance could not' 

* I should try again if I were to be much here,' said Lance ; but 
the general voice dissuaded him; and at the same time Tripp 
knocked at the door — the summons to the Vicar and Squire to 
visit the ringers at their banquet. 

* You had better go to bed. Cherry,' sarid Felix, as he rose; * you 
look like a white rag.' 

* Triumphs are tiring processes, to say nothing of making tea,' 
said Cherry ; * but I don't want to disturb Sibby just yet* 

* I'll put you to bed, if you like,' said Wilmet * I want to send 
Emma down, and keep within hearing of the children.' 

* Oh, that will be most delicious of all ! So like old times !' 
And the two sisters went off, to be happy together, and coo a 
little delight in their Squire and his beautiful home, mingled with a 
domestic consultation how the bared drawing-room could be 
inexpensively rendered a pleasant family gathering place. 



Chap. 
XXXVI. 



33* 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXVI. 



* A little chintz will do a great deal,' said Wilmet \ * we will see 
about it/ 

Which assurance set Cherry's mind at rest on that score, for her 
belief in Wilmet*s notable abilities was boundless. ' But what is 
the matter with Robina ? ' she added after a few minutes, recalling 
the events of the day. 'She is so silent, and has a distressed 
anxious look I never saw about her before. I Wonder whether 
she regrets the not coming home for good.' 

* I am not sure,' said Wilmet ; * I am inclined to think she is 
sorry to be away from Repworth Towers.' 

* O Wilmet ! impossible, unnatural I ' 

* I never do quite understand Robin,' said Wilmet * She seems 
the simplest, soberest girl in the world ; and yet I suppose that folly 
of Alice's put things into her head, for she has a strange propensity 
to think people are paying her attention. Even at Bareges I saw 
s)rmptoms of it, which I put a stop to at once.' 

* I can't think it of any one so honest and sensible as the 
Robin.' 

* I know it, unfortunately; and it is the more curious that she has 
only moderate good looks, and no other tokens of vanity. It is 
particularly unlucky in her position.* 

* You don't imagine there's anything going on ! ' 

* I hope not' 

' I have a great deal too much confidence in the Robin to 
suspect her.* 

* Not of consciously doing wrong, but of having been flattered, 
and now perhaps in a difliculty. However, I shall say nothing till 
we have seen more. She may be only tired.' 

Felix — ^with all that was on his hands — had likewise noted the 
absence of the Robin's chirp, and looked for her when he came back 
from the ringers' supper, to which Clement and Lance had 
followed him. They then went off to Clement's library for a 
consultation about some music; and FeUx, repairing to the 
drawing-room, found nothing there but a lonely cockchafer, 
knocking his head against a lonely lamp on the lonely round table 
in the centre — ^not an enlivening spectacle ; but hearing steps on 
the gravel, he went out, and found John pacing under the wall 
with a cigar, and Bernard emulously following in his wake. 



POSSESSION, 



333 



* Where are all the others?* he asked; *it is not far from 
ten.' 

* Wilmet went up to the babies/ said John ; * the others are 
about somewhere.' 

* Larking about/ added Bernard, with superior wisdom. * Well, 
John, you were saying — ^ 

Felix was too thankful to have Bernard doing anything so 
sensible as to talk to John to interrupt them further, and turned 
away. He stood for a few minutes to enjoy the strange repose of 
the exquisite loveliness of the scene — the summer sunset, not yet 
entirely died away, but tinging the northern sky with pure light, 
while the great moon, still low, silvered the river, and defined the 
grand outline of the church. 

And this, not only a scene to be gazed at, but the home he had 
reached at last — the home so long withheld ! 

* Entering into rest,' he said to himself, for the repose of mind 
was great * And yet — 

** Your rest must be no rest below." 

No, home duties— higher duties, still more — forbid me to make 
this more than a resting-place — not rest " There remaineth yet a 
rest for the people of God " — yet a home, but its shadow here is 
very sweet Let it not beguile me !' 

Just then Angela's laugh, a very musical and yet a very giddy 
one, like a rapid peal of silver bells, caught his ear ; and in the 
moonlight in the churchyard he saw her tall light figure, and what 
could be none other than Will beside her. He was vexed. She 
was bare-headed, and the churchyard was open to the village on 
the other side, and had a public pathway through it He walked 
quickly towards them, and called as soon as he could do so in a low 
voice, * Come in directly, Angela. You know this is not private 
ground.' 

* O Felix, we have found such a delicious ghost ! Don't you see 
ts white wings ? ' 

* Angel thinks it is her own kin, a fossil cherub,' said Will. 
' Why aren't you all out? 'tis not a scene to be wasted, especially 
with Angels and Ministers of Grace to defend us.' 

* Minister oi Grace — that's Robin,' laughed Angela. 



Chap. 
XXXVI. 



334 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chah. 
XXXVI. 



* Hush, Angela I come in, said Felix, severely ; * this is no 
place for nonsense — especially unkind nonsense,' he added in a 
lower voice. 

She did not answer, but the church clock began its chimes- 
sweet, mysterious, tender — ^given by some musical Underwood 
long ago, and sounding in the dark quite unearthly, while the long 
deep tones of the ten o'clock that followed came with awe upon 
the ear. Will was heard to give a long sigh, but no one spoke as 
they all came back to the drawing-room, which was full enough by 
this time — four gentlemen, hotly discussing a cricket-match by the 
chimney-piece ; Wilmet knitting on a stiff chair in the comer ; and 
Robina, under the lamp, hard at work on some point-lace on a 
green roll. 

* Putting out your eyes, Bob,' said Felix, feeling the need of 
saying something kind to her. * What are you doing that for? * 

* Lady de la Poer has some point de Venise that she can't use 
because one ruffle is wanting,' said Robina, * and I have made out 
the pattern. I want to take it back with me and surprise her.' 

* It is all willing sacrifice when one puts out one's eyes in a 
marchioness's service,' said Will's voice from the window. 

Robina looked up resolutely. * Very willing when one is 
grateful for a great deal of motherly kindness,' she said, steadily, 
and yet with a certain sadness in her voice. 

* Oh yes ! a handle to one's name makes a little civility go a 
great way.' 

* You know nothing about it' The voice was steady but 
indignant, and there was a flush of deep colour on the cheeks. 

* It is quite true, Robina,' said John. * It is one of the trials of 
life, that when we live in two different worlds, the inhabitants of the 
one are apt to resent and misunderstand our feelings for the other.' 

They were all grateful for this generalization ; and Felix now 
spoke of the household prayefrs. * I had not begun them,' said 
Clement ; * I thought the real master of the house should take the 
initiative.' 

* Set up the domestic halter, as Mrs. Shapcote says,' added 
Lance. 

* We might make that organ available,' said Felix, and screen off 
the end part of the long room where it stands, for a permanency.* 



POSSESS/OJ^. 



335 



* Yes, there's rather a nice window down there with our Rood 
in it — nothing incongruous/ said Clement, * if Lance can only cure 
the organ.' 

Meantime, I suppose we had better have the servants in here, 
and use the piano.' 

* They will be all dispersed, and not like to come in,' said Wilmet. 

* Possibly,' said Felix, * but I shall go and see. I have a feeling 
against beginning our first night in our new home without .some 
collective commendation of ourselves.* 

* If we had but an authorized form for dedicating a new home, 
like the Russian Church,' said Clement 

* You have not thought of anything in especial. Well, see.' 
And he pointed to some marks in the prayer-book he left in 
Clement's hand, while he left tlie room for a word or two, which he 
thought would better prepare the household than a peremptory bell. 

Clement was struck, as indeed they all were, with his selection. 
There was the Psalm, * Except the Lord build the house ; ' a short 
lesson (the reading of which Felix reserved to himselO> namely, 
the words from Deuteronomy, against the presumption of prosperity ; 
and the Collects, * Prevent us O Lord in all our doings,' * Charity,' 
*the sundry and manifold changes of the world,' and * things temporal 
and things eternal ;' and then came the hymn — ^it was, * Lead Thou 
me on.' Felix believed he had heard its echoes in his little bed 
that last Sunday night, and therefore wished for it, though it seemed 
a strange choice for the new house. How Edward and Mary must 
have felt that * one step enough for me,' when they went forth with 
their little ones into the moor and fen ! But in this hour of 
restoration, was it still to be a looking forth into mist and fog, led 
only by the kindly Light, 

' Till through the dawn the Angel faces smile.' 

Some who looked at those pictures felt as if they had had a 
foretaste of those angel faces. 

* And,' said Kerenhappuch to her father, * to see Miss Mary's 
sons, those dear young gentlemen, all a standing singing together 
like so many lambs — ^it was just a picture like the three chorister 
boys. I says to myself, " Keren, this 'ill be a blessed place. If 
this isn't the angels come down after all ! " * 



Chap. 
XXXVI. 



336 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXVII. 



CHAPTER XXXVII. 

INVASIONS. 

* He muttered,' '' £ggs and bacon, 

Lobster, and duck, and toasted cheese." ' 

Phantasmagoria, 

* When did Bernard Underwood say his people were coming?' 

* On Wednesday.* 

* To-day ! That's right I can take you over to-morrow to call 
on them.' 

* So soon r 

* Welcomes can't be too soon.' 
' If one is not settled in ?' 

* The furniture was left to them.' 

* Thaf s all men know about it !' 

* I know this, that if I don't go to-morrow, I have not another 
free day for a fortnight.' 

* It is all very well for you. I daresay the man-kind have a 
room in some trim, or don't know it if they have not ; but to fall 
promiscuously on the female sect, with their little amenities in an 
experimental state of development, is the way to be obnoxious. 
Can't you go solus, and make pretty speeches ?' 

' No, Etiiel ; it must be attention here from woman to woman. 
It may help them to start in the neighbourhood.' 

* I submit How are we to go ? What is the distance ?' 

* Twelve miles. Suppose we went by railway, and took a boat 
up from Ewmouth. What do you say to that, Daisy?' 

* That I have had quite enough specimens of the family in 
Master Bernard and his clerical brother.' 

* You liked the former specimens well enough. Eh ! Do you 
remember Daisiana?' 

An angry flush rose to Gertrude May's cheeks, but she tried to 
answer composedly, * The man-kind, as Ethel calls them, are no 
matter; but what can woman-kind be, after "a life-struggle to 
preserve gentility over a stationer's shop ?' 

* The more reason they should be susceptible to mortification 



INVASIONS, 



337 



from their father's old friends/ said Dr. May, as he left the 
room. 

* No, you can't get off, Daisy,' said Ethel. * It must be done, 
and I only wish it could be a little later, for fear we should inflict 
more vexation than pleasure.' 

* No ; it can't be helped. He is going to run a-muck and take 
us in his train,' said the spoilt child, shrugging her shoulders. 

On the Thursday morning, at the Vale Leston breakfast-table it 
was, *The first tiling is to make the drawing-room habitable 
before any one calls.' 

*No one will presume on such barbarity till after Sunday!' 
exclaimed Cherry. 

* Unless the Miss Hepbums should — ' said Wilmet 

* No,' decidedly stated Clement j they told me they should wait 
till Monday.' 

* And your library is as respectable as it is in the nature of the 
male animal to keep its lair,' said Cherry ; * so I don't mind if a 
gentleman comes, such as Captain Audley.' 

*You need not trouble yourself about Captain Audley,' in- 
terposed Bernard. * Never calls on ladies by any chance ; hates 
'em worse than poison.' 

* Bosh, Bear ! We met him at a picnic,' quoth Lance. 

* That was long ago, and it grows on him ; and it's monstrous 
hard lines on Charhe, now he's big enough to be spooney, that 
he never will go anywhere among humans. He's gone off in 
his yacht now to shoot seals, and cut the Arckey — ^Archey — 
Archidiaconal meeting.* 

' Archidiaconal ? He's not a churchwarden, is he ?' 
' What is it, Clem ? You know. A whole lot of fine ladies 
and swells and dons and big-wigs coming to Ewmouth to go on 
about Gothic arches, and Roman camps, and Britons' bones, and 
all that sort of rubbish.* 

* Does Stoneborough derive archseology from arches ? ' said Felix, 

* Perhaps he thinks Archidiaconal functions consist in looking 
after them,' added Will 

*I remember now,' said Clement; 'there is really to be a 
meeting of the Archaeological Society at Ewmouth, and it is to be 
apprehended that they may make a descent upon this place.' 

VOL. II. z 



Chap. 
XXXVII 



i3S 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXVII. 



* Happy hunting grounds/ said Felix. * I only hope they will 
give us due notice.* 

The bare idea quickened the breakfast By ten o'clock a 
survey had been taken, and Cherry had thankfully accepted 
Wilmefs assurance that there were sufficient resources scattered 
through the house to repair the ravages of Mrs. Fulbert without 
more serious expense than that of a piece of chintz ; and having 
resigned the command into her hands, beheld her consulting 
Clement on the possibility of being driven into Ewmouth, which 
he undertook to do in person in his dog-cart without loss of time. 
An exchange of all the other existing vehicles had been arranged 
for one roomy waggonette, and a basket pony-carriage, fit for 
Cherry to drive if ever she look courage — they had only been 
kept to meet the exigencies of the arrival en masse. 

By a quarter to one Dr. May had landed his daughters at the 
garden steps, and was walking them up to the cloister door, when 
they were greeted with a hideous whistling bray, followed by the 
apparition of a figure with a pink and white shirt and grey legs, a 
great deal of dust and brown moustaches, upon inflated cheeks 
puffing vigorously through a big golden tube, which he next 
proceeded to spy down with one eye, and through that telescope 
became aware of one of the new comers, and uttered an ejacula- 
tion, * Dr. May, by all that's lucky !' at the same time, using both 
eyes more naturally, he perceived the two ladies, blushed up to 
the eyes, and came forward with an apologetic greeting and hands 
far too dusty for any grasp less eager than the doctor's. * Grown 
out of knowledge, but you're an old friend, I see.' 

* I'm sorry to be in this awful mess, but I want to get the organ 
to rights before Saturday, when I must get back,' he said, as he 
led them through a world of organ-pipes, scattered here, there, 
and everywhere, and conducted them straight to the drawing- 
room. There the scene disclosed a giddy fabric, consisting of the 
round table, pushed up to a window and surmounted by a chair, 
and that again by a footstool, on the top of all a lady, dropping a 
measuring-tape to the floor, where a little girl was holding it by 
the ring at the end. The floor was bespread with slippery glossy 
lengths of chintz, patterned with pink and purple heather, on 
whicli a third sister was performing with a big pair of scissors in a 



INVASIONS, 



339 



crawling position on the floor, and a fourth was supplying the 
yawning shelves of a chiffonier with books. Ethel's prognostic 
was justified to the full. 

'Wilmetr exclaimed Lance, *take care! How could you? 
Why didn't you send me up ?' 

* I should not have trusted you ; but now you may help me 
down,* And there she became conscious of the guests, but with a 
curious simplicity and dignity, she took no notice of them ; while 
they thought it best to engross themselves in shaking hands with 
the lame sister, with her who scrambled up from the floor with a 
red and fagged visage, and with the little one, who, amid all the 
dust and confusion, looked as dainty and shining-haired as if she 
had been newly adorned for a feast 

* Here she is on the ordinary level of society T said Geraldine. 
'This is Mrs. Harewood, Dr. May — ^Wilmet, whom I think you 
remember.* 

Wilmet had brought her composure down with her, and astonished 
the visitors therewith, as well as by the rare quality of her beauty, 
reminding Ethel of the fair matronly dames of early Italian art, 
both for her silence and her substantial stateliness. Nor was there 
the least flutter or affectation about Cherry; she thought the 
adventure fun, and had seen in a moment what sort of treatment 
was suitable to the present company, so she merrily observed, 
* Now that Lance has given you a pleasing peep behind the scenes, 
won't you come to a less dismantled region ?* 

' It is only the consequence of resigning oneself to one's gentle- 
men,* returned Ethel. If I had had my way, you should have had 
time to " big your bower." * 

* Ah 1 but we could not afford to miss a kind welcome,* said 
Geraldine, with the little pathos of sweetness that was such an 
attraction. * My brother is surveying his new domains, but he 
will come in almost directly to early dinner. You are come for it ? 
You'll come and take off your hats. Lance !' 

Lance had fled, so soon as he had extricated Wilmet from her 
perilous attitude. No wonder ; particular as he was about young 
ladies, his ddshabilM, nearly as bad as that of Cleomenes, must 
have been dreadful to him ; and it was Wilmet who gave Cherry 
an arm over the oak floor* They put Dr. May into tl^e library, 

Z 2 



Chav. 
XXXV li. 



340 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXVIl. 



where Clement came to light ; while they took the daughters up- 
stairs, where they were almost as much pleased to see, as the 
sisters to show, the beauties of the quaint old house, and were 
perfectly sensible of the well-bred simplicity, playfulness, an'. 
absence of all false shame, so entirely different from what they had 
expected. 

Ethel had been prepared to spend her day in a state of good- 
humoured forbearance and repression of Gertrude's intolerance. 
Instead of which she found herself in that state of ease which 
comes of accordance of tone, and she saw — ^what she had never 
beheld before — in her keen unvenerative sister, who had never 
formed any kind of attachment out of her own family and not 
many in it, the process of falling into an enthusiasm. That lame 
Miss Underwood, like an old fairy with her ivory-headed crutch 
stick; her marked eyebrows, thin expressive face, with its flashes 
of fun and plaintive sweetness, youthful complexion and pronounced 
features, was — ^what Daisy called — *• so uncommon ' as to strike 
her fancy, to a wonderful degree, and she had hardly eyes or ears 
to spare for anybody else ; when at the sound of the dinner-bell, 
which had a charming little extinguisher of its own at the top of 
the octagon tower, the whole of the party were exhibited in the 
dining-room — Felix and John Harewood from a round of inspec- 
tion with the bailiff; Angela from the kitchen-garden. She had 
been set to work unpacking books with Robina, but becoming 
discursive, had flown off to a tour on the leads with Bernard. * So 
much less considerate than Stella !' sighed Robin, left to the tasks 
that could only fall to the quietest and strongest female of the 
family. For one happy half hour she was cheered by Will, who 
volunteered help, gave her all the volumes wrong, or put them up- 
side-down, then lighting on Chaucer, read aloud Palaemon and 
Arcite, with comments, until Angela burst in, and whirled him away 
to "shake an apple-tree for half a dozen urchins, with whom she 
had made acquaintance in the churchyard ; and Robina had toiled 
on alone till, on Wilmet's return, she was swept into the furniture 
vortex. 

Dr. May's heart, like Ethel's, warmed to the long table so like 
their own best days ; and the perfect absence of pretension in the 
plain leg of mutton and vegetables delighted them eagerly. More- 



INVASIONS, 



341 



over, he was dazzled by Wilmet's grand beauty, and the general 
comeliness of his old friend's family, while he talked with immense 
satisfaction to Felix and Major Harewood; but some strange 
change had fallen on Daisy. 

She had been only fourteen at the time of her escapade on the 
Kitten's Tail, and now at nineteen the presence of the gentleman 
concerned in it seemed actually to keep her silent, so that she did 
not respond to the advances of her nearest contemporaries, Robina 
and Angela, one of whom had a good deal more manner and the 
other a good deal more assurance than she could boast; and 
though Lance had reappeared in irreproachable costume, she 
daunted his attempts at conversation by her evident determination 
to listen to the elders' discussion of architects. 

* Aren't you going to the Church?' asked Robina, finding him 
leaning against the cloister door when there had been a move to 
show the Church to the visitors. 

* No use in crowding them up with all the ruck. I shall strip, 
and go back to my organ-pipes. I shall not come here much. 
'Tis no use being in a false position.' 

' Nonsense. A false position is pretending to be what one is 
not' 

* Here I pretend to be on equality, and am shewn my place,' 
said Lance, disconsolately ; for he was very soft-hearted, and had 
an immense turn for young ladies. 

* You're annihilated by a breath,' said Robin ; * besides, it was 
only shjmess.' 

* Shy ? You should have seen her last time !' 

* That's the very reason. If you only knew how horrid things 
done at one end of one's teens feel at the other !' 

However, with Robina things were mending. Will had recovered 
his temper. There had been nothing to remind him of the ob- 
noxious family at Repworth, when the pointlace had yielded per- 
force to the heatlier-patterned chintz, which was crackling about 
in all directions under the needles of all the ladies, and even of 
Krishnu. Everybody, except Angela, who said it hurt her fingers, 
was at work at petticoats for ottomans and robes for armchairs, or 
coats for curious settees routed out from upstairs, while Wilmet 
used the sewing-machine on the curtains, to supply the place of 



Chav. 
XXXVII. 



U2 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
X>CXVII. 



the brocade borne off by Mrs. Fulbert, and brought to light ex- 
quisite tamboured work of Lady Geraldine*s that happily had been 
entirely unappreciated in the last reign. 

Robina was stitching away the next day, when she had a treat 
Bill came after her with the blottiest of all rolls of MS., being an 
essay to prove that the sun, the dawn, and the clouds, were not the 
origin of everything and everybody everywhere in legend and 
mythology, and he wanted a pair of ears to which to read it, so that 
he might hear it himself before submitting it to John. Lance was 
perpetrating worse screeches than ever with his organ-pipes, and 
could not Robin bring her needling out of the sound of them and 
listen to a fellow ? 

Ample space was no small privilege to a family accustomed to 
be cramped and crowded, and there was a pleasant sense of 
expansion in sitting down under the cedar-tree, with Bill luxuriously 
spread on the grass. 

Such a sense Felix had in sorting his papers into the numerous 
drawers and pigeon-holes in his ample study-table, trusting himself 
not to make them so many traps for losing things, since he did not 
hold with Bill, that it is best to have no partitions, and have only 
one place to search through. Clement was making over to him 
the memoranda of the transactions conducted in his absence, when 
horses* feet were heard at the front-door, and Clement recon- 
noitring at the window, said, *Mr. Milwright — the Rector of 
Ewford — ^no doubt it is about the Archaeology.' 

* A friend of yours ?* 

* Not particularly. I sat next him at the Visitation, and as the 
Charge ended, he touched me and said, " I'll show you the only bit 
of fourteenth-century glass in the choir ;" and when we came out, 
and he heard my name, he said, " I congratulate you on the 
possession of the finest specimen of Cistercian architecture in the 
rural deanery." I'm afraid he minds his ecclesiology more than 
his ecclesia.' 

By this time the entrance was effected of a lively well-bred man 
of middle age, not at all the conventional antiquarian, though still 
with one master idea. He apologized for his early call, but ex- 
plained his purpose, namely to ask permission to conduct a party 
of the archaeologists over the Church and Priory, and to make a 



JNVASIONS. 



343 



preliminary inspection at once, to compare his old notes and 
prepare fresh ones. They were both willingly granted ; and Felix 
went to summon his sisters, who would gladly profit by the primary 
survey without a crowd, and be delighted to learn the traditions of 
the place, which were necessarily a good deal lost to them. When 
the pair imder the cedar looked round on hearing voices, Robina 
exclaimed with surprise and recognition of the guest 

* How do you know him ?* asked her companion. 

* He was staying at the Towers last winter. He was once a 
curate at Rep worth.' 

* Will he know you?' 

' Not so likely as if he had seen me as a brass ; but I must go 
and speak to him.' 

* Such an enchanting encounter in your exile !* 

* Nonsense 1 I only don't choose to seem ashamed of my 
vocation, she answered rather proudly, as she came forward to 
join the party^ for who^e benefit Mr. Milwright was drawing the 
plan of the original Priory with his stick in the gravel Felix was 
about to introduce her, but she held out her hand, saying, * I have 
had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Milwright before at Repworth. 
I am one of the governesses.' 

He made civil acknowledgment, but would hardly have cared if 
she had avowed herself kitchen-maid there. He knew only that 
two intelligent auditors had come up ; and all were soon absorbed 
in the interest of his discourse, an entirely new pleasure to most. 

To read in the peculiarity of the dog-tooth round the pointed 
arch, as clearly as in Arabic figures, the date when the church was 
founded, and to bring out stone by stone each fresh stage of im- 
provement ; to see when a building prior came from France, and 
put in a flamboyant window in the south transept ; when a sturdy 
baron atoned for ravages in Brittany, by giving that perpendicular 
tower and cloister ; and when, in a spirit of renovation, the last 
effort broke forth in those marvellous fan pendants in the Lady 
Chapel — these were feats delightful to enter into, and it was amusing 
as well as instructive to see the ecclesiologist poke into rubbishy 
comers, and disinter fragments of capitals and mouldings, sedilia 
and piscinae, altars, and prior's coffin-lids with floriated crosses, 
giving an account of their origin as confidently as if he had had a 



Cha'. 
XXXVII. 



344 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXVII. 



pre-existence as a brother in the Priory. Moreover, his intentions 
furnished an excellent pretext for doing away with the seventy-five 
yards of black without outraging the squire's memory; indeed, 
Clement undid a good deal of it to facilitate the researches, and no 
one could pass it without a sly tweak to detach another naiL 

* I'll keep the hatchment over the door as long as man can wish,' 
said Felix ; * but the Church in mourning I cannot stand.' 

* And I think the three-decker might come down too,' added 
Clement. * It is clearly within the chancel, and is your undisputed 
property.' 

In which opinion Mr. Milwright, as a Rector, confirmed him, and 
likewise bestowed some good advice as to the manner of the 
intended restoration. * The worst of it is,' he said, * it can't be 
done under some thousands ; and there's so much work of that sort 
about, the public is nearly wrung dry. However, it would be the 
very time to set a subscription going.' 

* Paying toll,' said Felix, drily. * No. 1 think the Rectory 
ought to do it gradually.' 

* Oh, I beg your pardon.' And Mr. Milwright recollected that 
he had heard something of young Underwood being in trade, and 
concluded that he had made a good thing of it ; and when on the 
way to the house some question was asked as to what was usual 
on such domiciliary visits, he did not scruple to say that a luncheon 
was usually bestowed by the inhabitants. 

The visit to the house was still more entertaining. The long 
room was explained to be the remnant of the old hospitium below, 
with the Prior's chamber above ; but the cellar was the oldest part 
of the house. Felix had been thither to take stock of the wine, 
and had only carried away a sense of the elaborate arrangement 
of the bins, and the ages it would take to consume their contents; 
but Mr. Milwright passed all these, and finally made a set like a 
pointer at a big beer-barrel, pointing to a low door behind it 
Golightly was sent for to assist in moving it, which he did with 
great reluctance, asserting on the authority of Mrs. Macnamara 
(Sibby) that it led to nothing but ruins and foul air. 

* Ah !' said Mr. Milwright, * I am glad my friend Dobby is not 
quite forgotten.' 

* Indeed, Sir, if you mean to imply that I ever was actuated by 



INVASIONS. 



343 



such a superstition r cried Golightly, giving all his strength to 
assist his young masters ; while Angela capered about in delight at 
having acquired a ghost as well as a prophecy, and Felix recollected 
having been threatened with Dobby by a young nursery-maid. The 
door proved to lead to a vaulted passage cut out in the solid rock, 
and ending in a beautiful semicircular chamber with melon-like 
divisions, uniting in one large boss at the summit, carved with 
the five stars which had been the shield of the Priory. The 
bad conscience of some despoiling Underwood had probably led to 
the idea of a walled-up monk, whose phantom was accustomed 
to take his walks abroad, rattling a chain, under the pleasing 
name of Dobby. 

But the vault was a grand possession, and the access to it was 
to be made as favourable as circumstances would permit Mr. 
Milwright next shewed that the big knobs at the posts of the ba- 
lustrade of the staircase unscrewed for the insertion of flambeaux, 
since the builders of the mansion, following instincts bequeathed 
from times of peril, had put their banqueting-room at the top of 
the house. All that was now divided by floor and wainscot into 
the long corridor and a rabbit-warren of rooms, had once been a 
banqueting-hall, the ceiling of which, in the upper story, still 
shewed handsome chequer-work of plaster mouldings, the inter- 
sections alternately adorned with roods and crowns, L. U., and 
J. R. The octagon tower at the end was of earlier date, and had 
formed a part of the principal entrance, flanking one of the two 
great gateway towers, of which only one stump remained, built 
into a wood shed. 

And, as to the Prior's kitchen, a splendid octagon, with eight 
arches for as many fires, and a chimney in the middle, it had been 
so hemmed in with sheds and leans-to, that though it existed as a 
coalhole, no one had yet explored it Geraldine was ashamed, 
both as housewife and antiquary; but she had been so much 
engrossed during these two first days that she had by no means 
learnt all the ins and outs of her new old home, of which all felt 
much prouder than before, and on the renovation of which Mr. 
Milwright preached as earnestly as that of the Church. 

He took leave, having greatly excited the whole family as to the 
coming feast of antiquities, and their own especial share of it 



Chap. 
XXXVII. 



346 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXVII. 



* What shall you do about this luncheon?* asted Wilmet, when 
the party next assembled round tlie long table. 

* Give it,' briefly answered Felix. 

* It will be tremendously expensive.* 

* An elegant cold collation from the pastrycook at Ewmouth 
would be ; but I don't see why we should not have a few cold 
joints. Eh, Cherry?' 

* Like our celebrated supper to the Minsterham choir,* re- 
sponded she. 

* You neither of you know what it will lead to,' was the old 
phrase into which Wilmet relapse<L 

* Never mind her,' interposed her husband. * She is demoralized 
by regimental ddjeiiners.' 

* It serves you right for dragging me to them,' retorted Wilmet 

* I don't do so to please you, my dear, but because I can't have 
Major Harewood said to mew up his handsome wife out of sight' 

* I own,' she said, not quite pleased, * I am afraid of this affair 
being more expensive than Felix imagines. If it is done at all, it 
must be done properly.' 

' Of course it must,' pronounced Bernard. * If it is to be a 
snobbish concern, I wash my hands of it I shall go off to Jem 
Shaw out of the way !' 

* I'll tell you how to make it snobbish. Bear,' said Cherry. * To 
have the very same waiters in the very same cotton gloves, handing 
about the very same lobster-salad, in the very same moulds, and 
and tongues in the very same ruffles, with the very same carrot 
and turnip flowers on them, that have haunted the archaeologists 
at every meal' 

* Bravo, Cherry !' broke in Will. * Commend me to the uncon- 
ventional woman !' 

* Whereas,' proceeded Cherry, still directing herself on Bernard* 
* no snob ever had such a place as the hospitium, nor such a salt- 
cellar as Amelia shewed me this morning, and which I'm sadly 
afraid was filched from my Lord Prior, nor such wonderful old 
China plates and dishes, with all the acts of the romance of the 
willow pattern.* 

* It's all plates and dishes so far, with nothing on them, like a 
Spanish don,' said Lance. 



INVASIONS, 



347 



* Stay a bit,* said Cherry. * We'll get a big piece of hung beef, 
and break into Mrs. Froggatt's parting gift of hams. Then Will 
and Bear shall kill us some rabbits, and -they and the pigeons in 
tliat delicious old dovecote will make no end of pies ; and what 
with the chick-a-biddies in the yard, and tlie unlimited lobsters 
Tripp talks of, and a big dish of curds and cream, and Wilmet's 
famous lemon cheesecakes, and all the melons and the cucumbers, 
and the apricocks and mulberries, the purple grapes, green figs, 
and dewberries, I think Bear's snob will be rather surprised ! 
Then we'll have clean plates on the side-table, and let the gen- 
tlemen fetch them for the ladies ; and if John will lend us Zadok, 
and Miss Lightfoot and Mr. Golightly act according to their names, 
I think we shall manage it all without any outgoing except for the 
sohd eatables.' 

* And drinkables there are enough and to spare in the cellar,' 
said Felix ; ' and John must si^ In judgment on tliem. It seems 
to me a clear matter of hospitality to feed hungry and tired people 
who turn up at one's house, and they must be content without mere 
display. In fact I see how to pay for such a feast as Cherry's genius 
sketches, and our tickets into the bargain. I'll write up to the 
" Old World," and offer an account of the whole concern.' 

* Learning is better than house and land,' muttered Will. 

* But it makes extra work of your holiday,' objected Wilmet 

* Reporting comes as natural to me as listening,' said Felix ; 
' besides, I mean this to be only a sketch at the end of each 
day. I won't go as a reporter this time, it is thrusting it too 
much down people's throats; and besides, this is rather out of 
Pur's line.' 

* I shall do it for that,' said Cherry. * I won't have poor Pur 
neglected.' 

* We must have my father up here,' added John. * What a 
banquet it will be to him !' 

* He might deliver his mind of his lecture on mediaeval seals, 
which got so much too learned for Minsterham,' added Will. 

There ensued a dispute for the possession of the Librarian. 
Major and Mrs. Harewood meant to move off to their lodgings at 
the Glebe Farm on the Monday, for even these two days shewed 
that Theodore and Kit were incompatible elements in the 



Chap. 
XXXVII. 



34«i 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXVII. 



household. The poor little uncle's uncertain conscience had been 
SQ far reached, that he knew he must keep his hands off; but to 
see the child noticed by any one he loved was misery to him, and 
* Master Kistofer ' was by no means safe from being the aggressor. 
He viewed all toys as his exclusive. right, and did not scruple to 
snatch from the astonished fingers; and as he was active and 
enterprising, and could climb stairs and open doors, it was never 
certain where he might next appear, nor would he obey anybody 
except his own natural lawful authorities. Poor Stella was con- 
tinually on the alert ; indeed she was the greatest sufferer, for her 
only weapon against her nephew was coaxing, the sight of which 
excited Theodore to a passion of jealousy ; and though she never 
uttered a murmur, she was undergoing a perpetual agony between 
them. The only safety was when Kit was in the charge of Zadok, 
whose dark face was Theodore's horror, and another reason for re- 
lieving the Priory of the establishment John apologized for the 
luxury of such an attendant as Krishnu. He had brought him home 
with the idea of letting him study at St. Augustine's, but his care 
had become a necessity during that tardy convalescence; and 
when it proved that his attainments were not up to the St 
Augustine's mark, and that he had no strong inclination to make 
them so, but shrank from leaving his master, the decision was 
welcome. He was northern mountaineer enough to bear the 
climate ; and Wilmet declared that he did the work of half there 
besides his own proper business. He certainly was invaluable in 
those days of bustle and arrival, and would have been more so 
but for the unlucky feud between Kit and Theodore. However, 
the farm was so near, that the safe members of the family could be 
together almost as much as ever. 

Visitors thickened. The reported excursion of the Archaeological 
Society made every one feel that it was expedient that the first 
call should have been previously made. Sunday was the limit 
Even the Miss Hepburns came not till that day ; Clement merely 
presented them when he brought down his imposing staff of new 
assistants to the horse-boxes tiiat so conveniently partitioned the 
classes, and gladly made over the big boys to the well-practised 
Squire — a set of little stolid urchins to Angela, and all the infants 
to Stella. If he hoped his display would induce the former 



INVASIONS, 



349 



teachers to withdraw, he was mistaken ; their close white-trimmed 
bonnets still kept guard over the girls. 

On the Monday they called, and kept on safe commonplace 
ground, like the ladies they were, and grew so cordial that Wilmet 
proposed walking back to see the invalid and introduce Robina, 
her namesake godchild. 

The girl's staid looks and manners gave great satisfaction, in 
contrast with Geraldine and Angela, who were thought flightly, and 
demonstrations were made which led to the explanation that she 
was only on a visit at home. * A governess !' The four ladies 
were horror-struck. * So selfish of Mr. Underwood !' 

Robin swelled up like her kind preparing for duels on the 
October lawn. * My Brother !' she said, in the emphatic tone 
that never meant any one but Felix. 

* It is entirely her own choice,' added Wilmet 

* Nothing should have induced him to consent,' said Miss 
Isabella, decidedly. 

' We did not see it in that light,' said Wilmet * He has worked 
so hard for us all, that we are glad to do anjrthing to relieve 
him.' 

' It can't be necessary !' exclaimed Miss Bridget, who always 
spoke breathlessly, and looking appealingly to Isabella. 

* Not absolutely necessary,' said Wilmet ; * but you know that so 
many would be a burthen on a much larger property.' 

There was a gasp all round at this, and Miss Isabella warmly 
said, * My dear Mrs. Harewood, do not let yourself be blinded. 
We know perfectly what the property is, and allowing for Mrs. 
Fulbert's settlement and any follies of the poor young man, I can 
assure you there is no reason your sisters should not remain at 
home, which is the only proper place for young women. I speak 
to you, as the married sister, who, as your brother Edward tells 
me, have acted the part of a mother. It is your bounden duty to 
protect your sisters.' (Wilmet had to frown at Robin, who sprang 
up in her chair.) * Of course your brother is meaning to marry ; 
(The negative went for nothing.) * You cannot expect anything 
else ; but still it is his first obligation not to cast them off, but to 
provide a home for them near at hand — the only becoming thing.' 

* Home is quite ready for us all, always,' cried Robina. * My 



Chap. 
XXXVII. 



aro 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXVII. 



brother would never let us want that; but while I can, I had 
rather maintain myself than be a burthen upon him.' 

' Ah 1 my dear, that is a dangerous because plausible spirit of 
pride and independence. As those who have tried can tell you, 
very little suffices single women, who have long ago broken with 
the world.' 

This beautiful sentiment was received with an assenting breath 
by the other three, while Miss Isabella triumphantly added, * And 
that your brother is bound to provide.' 

* I saw it stated,' continued Miss Martha, * that no one worthy 
the name of man will permit the ladies of his family to go out into 
the world for maintenance.' 

* A man that provideth not for his own household,' whispered 
sadly even gentle Miss Hepburn. 

* And, Isabella — tell them,' pursued Miss Bridget, * from facts 
we know — ^ 

* Yes,' said Miss Isabella, striking the nail. * If it is alleged to 
you that the estate is not sufficient, I warn you that there must be 
something wrong about the matter.' 

* You know,' said Wilmet, feeling it almost wrong to extend the 
misdeeds of the dead so much, ' the estate does not come clear.' 

* I allow for that, but I know from Mrs. Fulbert herself what 
that is ; and, pardon me, that is no sufficient plea, and you ought 
not to be allowed to think it is. Why, the Rectory alone is 
twelve hundred a year !' 

Was Felix's secret to be kept at the expense of his character ? 
However, Miss Martha brought some reUef, by saying, * And of 
course it can't be true that those persons who were sta3ring with 
Mr. Edward were monks, come down to take possession of the 
Priory and restore it ?' 

The sisters laughed, and Wilmet explained. *They were 
former fellow-curates of his. They came down to help, because 
he was so much knocked up.* 

* Then,' said Miss Isabella, hushing some further observations 
that evidently quivered on her sisters' tongues, * we may assure 
our friends that there is no truth in the preposterous rumour of a 
so-called restitution.' 

* Certainly not of the Priory,* said Wilmet. 



INVASIONS, 



351 



* Nor the Rectory ?' chimed in Miss Bridget. 

*I am hardly at liberty to answer/ said WilmeL *I do not 
know what my brother means to do, nor will he act hastily ; but I 
know he has strong feelings about tithes, and that all the rest wish 
to be no hindrance in the way of what he thinks right.* 

' To sacrifice his family to a scruple !* 

* Quite fanatical !' 

* And we heard he was so sensible T mourned the sisterhood , 
^hile their spokeswoman returned to the charge. 

* You remember, my dear lady, that the wealth which corrupted 
the clergy was curtailed by the wisdom of our forefathers ?* 

* Tithes r breathed Robin, for here she thought they had an 
indisputable stronghold. 

* We are not under the Jewish dispensation,* said Miss Isabella, 
with a half severe, half triumphant expression ; * but I see how it 
is. I have traced it all along — the system of works.* 

' Yes, Isabella ; you saw from the time that Mr. Edward, dear 

misguided young man, took from the poor dear children that 

precious hymn, 

"Till to Redemption's * work you cling 
By a simple faith, 
'Doing' is a deadly thing, 
'Doing' ends in death."' 

So sighed Bridget ; while Martha added, * If Mr. Underwood 
would only come to discuss it with Isabella, I am sure she would 
convince him.* 

* And then you need not be sacrificed, my dear !* said the eldest 
lady. 

* Nor his position in society !' added another. 

* For you know, Mrs. Harewood, it is hardly fair towards the 
neighbourhood to connect it with trade. Our county people are 
not accustomed to it.* 

* I daresay not,* said Wilmet, who had risen during the last 
sayings. • Good-bye ! I will tell my brother what you say.* 

* Do so, my dear ; I cannot bear to see a family I have known 
so long, suffer for, I must say, a mere Judaizing scruple I* 

Robina uttered two gasps on her way home. * Doing ends in 

♦ The real word is too sacred for quotation. 



Chap. 
XXXVII. 



352 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXVII. 



I 



death !' The other — * Single women who have broken with the 
world !' 

Confession to Felix of the betrayal of his purpose was needful 
He took it coolly enough. * Never mind I We can't charge poor 
Fulberfs memory with such a deficit; but there are not many who 
will probe so hard.' 

As Cherry saw, he could stand its being talked of much better 
as a very chimerical and unjustifiable action than even as simple 
honesty. * Do you mean to encounter them ?* she asked. * I see 
now the meaning of Perseus going among the Graiae,- for they 
seem to have but one eye ; and I think poor Clement would be 
glad if they had but one tooth.' 

* No,' said that misguided young man ; * don't be unfair on 
them. They are not in the least spiteful. Miss Martha is the 
only one who has the gossip in her, and her sisters always repress 
her. They are very good women, and I believe I have learnt 
much from them.* 

He said it with melancholy candour j and Robina indignantly 
recurred to their unconscious worldliness about what was due to 
the county ; to which Clement replied, that he feared that they 
would find that Felix's resolution did cost them something besides 
mere luxury. 

Cherry understood this when the Staples family called. The 
father was all that was warm and cordial ; and his wife meant to 
be the same, but she patronized. She expatiated on the rapacity 
of Mrs. Fulbert in carrying off so many handsome articles, and 
gave a sott of / all very well' commendation of the substitutes. 
And she proffered recommendations to shops and servants, and 
the use of her name, and even chaperonage, in a manner that 
made Cherry shrink into herself with dry thanks. It was credible 
that Mrs. Staples pitied the present Underwoods, and thought 
they had been so much damaged by their present circimistaDces 
as not to know how to do justice to their promotion. 

The daughter Felix and Lance had liked best was married to 
Mr. Welsh, the member for Ewmouth, a self-made man, and great 
shipowner, who, though disappointed that working among the 
people had not imbued Mr. Underwood with popular politics, was 
friendly and pleasant ; and his wife, a merry prosperous young 



INVASIONS, 



353 



matron, much more lady-like than her mother, and drolly vehe- 
ment in her new opinions, was only vexed that the new comers 
declined her dinner-parties, and could only be engaged to lunch 
on the first great archaeological day. She knew nothing about 
archaeologists, but she should keep open house, and it would be 
great fun. 

Very different were the next visitors — ^namely, Sir Vesey Ham- 
mond, the patriarch of the county, the undisturbed forty years* 
member, the very picture of a country gentleman, white-haired, 
clear-eyed, ruddy-cheeked, tall and robust, all vigorous health, and 
bringing an almost equally beautiful old wife. Theirs was a real 
welcome. They had come fifteen miles to give it ; for had not 
Sir Vesey been a friend of great-uncle Fulbert, and had not Mary 
been the aximiration of both ? Did not Lady Hammond recollect 
the twins, and was not she equally ready to do homage to * Master 
Kistofcr ' ? Nay ! did she not even appease any lurking fiimiture 
regrets, by exclaiming, * I am so fond of this room, and now it 
looks Uke old times. I never could like it as Mrs. Fulbert Under- 
wood made it, but now it is so bright and fresh and liveable ! Ah ! 
there's the dear old treble-seated settee again. I must go and sit 
in it for old acquaintance' sake !' 

There was a wonderful matronly charm about her, with her dark 
eyes that had last none of their softness, her snowy hair, and her 
sweet old face; and all the sisters drew round, unspeakably 
attracted by the motherliness that gave them a sense of what had 
been so long wanting to them. 

Her husband seemed to be satisfying himself that the new 
squire*s politics neither disgraced him, nor he his poUtics. Cherry 
caught an echo of — * tells me you have been editing a Conserva- 
tive paper.' 

* Yes, Sir ; I do so still' 

* I am glad of it You are a benefactor to the country ! * 
Wherewith Cherry had to respond to the old lady ; and when 

next her ears were open county matters had set in, and the 
baronet was hailing a useful auxiliary, and pressing FeUx to come 
to dinner, next Thursday, to be introduced to the lord-lieutenant 
of the county ; and she found herself included by both in the 
invitation. 

VOL. II. a A 



Chap. 
XXXVII. 



3S4 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXVII. 



There was a pause for an answer, and the colour came into 
Felix's face. * You are very kind, Sir Vesey ; but my sister is 
rather an invalid, and I am still in business — only backwards and 
forwards here. In short, as I told Mr. Staples just now, we 
cannot afford dinner visiting.' 

*I understand,' said Sir Vesey, quickly and kindly, and no 
doubt crediting poor Fulbert with a good deal. * We are quite 
out of distance for mere dinners. Fifteen miles is far too much 
for driving home at night ; but could not you and your sister come 
and spend a couple of nights ? We would meet you at the 
station.' 

Lady Hammond not only backed the invitation with all her 
might, but guessing perhaps that the lame invalid wanted help, 
extended it to a second sister. It was impossible to decline, it 
was not a case of reciprocity; and when Felix mentioned his 
acceptance to Mr. Staples, he found the worthy man as gratified at 
his adoption by Sir Vesey as if it had been a personal compli- 
ment. 

Robina was the other sister who was to go ; for, said Cherry, 
* She has customs and costumes adapted to high society, which 
can't be said for all of us !' Robina thought Angela should 
benefit by the introduction, but Felix declared that he could not 
trust Cherry to her — a cruel stroke which she did not quite 
deserve, for she had a good deal of the nursing instinct 

The expedition was chiefly memorable to Cherry in that she first 
saw Felix there as a country gentleman, and could judge of his 
appearance among others. The party was, however, mostly of the 
higher order of * county people,' above the mark of even the original 
Underwoods, more of the I^ondon-going type of which members 
are made. They and their woman-kind were not as full of talent 
and brilliancy as Cherry's artist friends, but had none of the stift 
dullness of her cousin Tom's circle. They were well bred, and 
had no lack of sensible and fairly intellectual talk about the 
subjects of the day, and all were intimately at home with one 
another. All the gentlemen, and most of the ladies, were 
addressed by their host like one who had known them from boys 
and girls. Yet though every one was so intimate, there was no 
exclusiveness, and the two girls were at once let into the cirde, 



INVASIONS, 



355 



as it were, and made one with the rest of the ladles ; in truth, 
Cherry effected one of her usual conquests, and quite subdued 
Sir Vesey's heart as he drove her from the station. The dinner 
and appointments would not have been pronounced by Mrs. Tom 
Underwood cotnifo; they lagged a good deal behind the compHca- 
tions of delicacies, and vessels, and implements, which modem 
luxury delights in multiplying, and the dresses were of a quieter 
style than Cherry expected, so that it by no means fulfilled her 
awfiil notions of a state dinner in the country. 

And how did her own Squire hold his place compared with 
others? Looking at him critically, as she tried to do, she saw 
that his complexion was devoid of the embrowning of sun and wind, 
his hands were over-white and delicate, and too many cares had 
pressed on his young shoulders not to have rounded them ; so that 
he did not look like the active athletic men who had led an out-of- 
door life ; but in look, movement, and tone, he was as thorough a 
gentleman as any one. Evening dress was perhaps most favourable 
to him, for he had rejected, witii a sort of dishke, all semi-sporting 
morning costumes ; and there was a little precision in his neatness, 
not like the ideal squire, but thoroughly individual in him, and the 
effect of his doing whatever he was about in the best way he could. 
When Bernard once declared that Felix's dress looked as if it were 
always Sunday, Stella gravely made answer, ' I think it is always the 
Fourth Conunandment with him ! ' In which, perhaps, the little 
woman found the key of his nature. 

There was no lack of ease about him ; he did perhaps say * Sir' 
more than is the ordinary custom, but this had rather a gracefid 
effect to an elderly man ; and he had no backwardness in conver- 
sation, but was as well-informed and intelligent as any newly-arrived 
squire could be expected to be, or more so. If he did not shoot, 
or hunt, that was his own affair: these were not men of the 
calibre to appreciate nothing else ; they felt they had got a sensible, 
honourable, practical man among them, and accepted him as a 
fellow-worker for the welfare of their county. If he did sell books 
elsewhere, that was nothing to them j they felt he was a gentleman, 
and that was all they wanted. 

Perhaps it was altogether more gratification than enjo)maent, 
where all was so" new and strange ; but the second evening was 

2 A 2 



Chap. 
XXXVII. 



356 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXVIl, 



pleasanter than the first, and the last breakfast made them like old 
friends. The introductions during those two evenings had been 
very opportune, in giving a little foothold among the denizens of 
the county before the great gathering of the antiquaries. 

Ewmouth had been selected as head-quarters, on account of its 
castle, its church, and a bit of Roman wall, besides a Roman villa, 
and several curious churches within distance for excursions. The 
names of readers of papers were very promising, and included 
* Mediaeval Seals, by the Reverend Christopher Harewood.' These 
lectures were to be given in the mornings ; in the afternoons the 
excursions were to take place, and one evening there was to be a 
soir^ at Mr, Welsh's. 

Tickets for the week cost a guinea. Felix took one apiece for 
himself and Geraldine; and Wilmet, not caring for such things, 
made her ticket over to Robina. This week would nearly finish 
William Harewood's holiday. A few days later he was to meet a 
reading-party at a vast old farm-house called Penbeacon, in the 
moors at the source of the Leston— five miles off, but still in 
the vast straggling parish, whose acreage little corresponded to 
its population. 

Clement and the Harewoods, meantime, spent their leisure 
moments in routing in Abednego Tripp's rubbish holes, and 
bringing out quantities of firagments of lace-work canopies, heads of 
saints and demons, and shattered Priors' coffin-Uds. The black 
cloth came down ; two divisions of the three-decker were stored 
away in the hay-loft over the vicarage-stable. The third and 
lowest was to serve Clement for his sermon, and Abednego must 
make the best of a place in the choir. As to the trumpeting 
angel at the top of the sounding-board, Felix was so constant to it, 
that he carefully dusted it, proved it to be really rather graceful, 
and set it up against the wall in his own bedroom. Will Hare- 
wood declared it was the idol representing the Pursuivant, and he 
rejoined that he only hoped that the Pursuivant might sound in 
accordance with that trumpet. 



K. T. 



357 



CHAPTER XXXVIII. 



K. T. 



Chap. 
XXXVIIl. 



' So black of hue, 
With orange tawny Bill.' 

Midsummer Nighfs Dream* 

The town-hall at Ewmouth was a good fifteenth-century building. 
The common herd sat on chairs and gazed at the speakers behind 
the table on the dais. There were the Lord Lieutenant and the 
local peer (he with whom Clement would not dine), Sir Vesey 
Hammond, and Mr. Welsh, together with Geraldine's old ac- 
quaintance, Lord de Vigny, who was sure to turn up at every 
sort of dilettante gathering in the kingdom, made words on the 
benefits of local research, and compliments on local hospitahty; 
and then some wise man gave an excellent compendious sketch of 
the history of the city and neighbourhood, notifying the connection 
of the spots it was intended to visit, beginning with the Castle 
that very afternoon. Meantime there was not much opportunity 
for greetings ; people were all in rows on the same level, looking 
into the fabrics on the crania of their neighbours in fi'ont 

* That's the way with ladies,* said William Harewood ; * they'll 
go an3rwhere to see one another's bonnets. That's the real point, 
whatever the excuse may be.' 

The remark was made in all good humour. Ever3rthing had 
been smooth all these ten days. Had not Robina copied out his 
whole essay in her beautiful clear script, and tied it up with 
purple ribbons ? Had she not toiled early and late at effective 
shaded diagrams of his father's seals? had she not listened in- 
telligently to his own supplemental lecture on the unconscious 
poetry those queer devices expressed? and had she not rescued 
an important letter of his from the slit in Clement's S. P. G. box, 
which he was always taking for the post ? 

The lecture over, there was a dispersion to lunch at various 
houses or hotels. The Underwoods were of Mrs. Welsh's party, 
where Geraldine was made much of under Lady Hammond's kind 
protection, and Robina remained in enviable obscurity at a side- 



3Sfi 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXVIIL 



table. Lady Hammond's age obliged her to ascend to the Castle 
afterwards in her carriage, and she insisted on taking her lame 
young friend with her. Every one else walked — Robina with her 
brother and Will, for both the Major and his father had fallen in 
with old acquaintance and gone their own way. 

Other parties debouched from other streets ; and as Robina 
climbed the Castle hill, she was aware of Lord Ernest de la Poer 
in the act of greeting her. 

* You here ! ' she exclaimed. 

* I am at Eweford with Milwright* 

* But your reading !' 

* Here I am, improving my mind.* 

* Hardly in the needful manner.' 

* Nay, but why is this holiday month to be all play and no work 
to every one but dis here unlucky nigger ? ' 

* YouVe not earned the right to play.' 

* Nor ever shall at home. You know what a farce it is to " call 
it either work or play." ' 

Felix did not wholly like the tone of this dialogue, but just then 
a brother of the press entreated a few moments' conversation. It 
was to ask for a recommendation, which he was now in a condition 
to give; and he was obliged to leave his sister to Will's care, 
intending speedily to overtake her. 

Meanwhile, Lord Ernest went on, with somewhat less of 
reserve, * Now I put it to you, which is which under the K. T. 
influence — Greek or croquet ? ' 

* The last is not her influence.' 

* No, nor her nature, . but her uncle's drill into complaisance 
She is a victim to filial piety, and drags me to the same shrine.' 

* Just what she does not want to do.' 

* No, but now you are gone, the games would never end if one 
didn't get her through a hoop occasionally.' 

Robina averted her head, for there was a general halt and a 
silence, and a voice made itself heard, explaining that here 
was the Roman masonry. 

The Castle was a large place, containing the county hall, and 
having likewise a small garrison of artillery to take care of tlie sea 
defences, on which modem science had of late been busy. The 



A'. T. 



359 



lecturer led his flock literally from piUax to post, stopping to 
expound all points of interest, and handing round drawings and 
photographs. There was nothing to do but to follow, and hope 
to fall in with some of the others. Of Geraldine there was no 
hope ; old Sir Vesey had tucked her under his vigorous arm as 
soon as she stepped out of the carriage ; Lord de Vigny had claimed 
her as an acquaintance, and her lameness gave her brevet rank for 
the nonce, for she was thrust into the forefront among the dames of 
high estate, and had a near view of everything. Felix had 
vanished ; and Will, whose arm would have been very convenient 
to Robina in the throng, hung a little alopf, wearing an almost 
quaintly desperate air of surliness, while Lord Ernest hovered close, 
speaking to her at every pause in the lecture. 

This uncomfortable trio were far in the rear, and a good deal 
jostled about, without very clear ideas where they were going or 
what they were seeing. Now it was along a moat ; now out on a 
rampart with a green slope open to the sea, a very living looking 
cannon in the embrasures; now gazing up to a machicolated 
turret, then dragged up its spiral stair to be handed out on a 
leaden roof, and get a grand view, and a general impression that 
one of the King Henrys bad done something there ; then diving 
down to a doleful dungeon, where somebody had been starved to 
death, but as it was not true, it did not signify who it was. Such 
were all the ideas that Robina or either of her cavaliers could have 
given of their perambulation of Ewmouth Castle. It was lucky 
for the Pursuivant that they were not its caterers. 

By the titne she had ascended a dusky stair into the great hall of 
columns, which had never been a chapel, Robina found that the 
tour was ended, and moreover that Will — ^as well as all the rest — 
had been lost in the throng, and that no one was near whom she 
knew but Ernest de la Poer. 

* I wonder where they all are 1* 

*We had better stand near the door,' he answered; 'they 
must pass this way.' 

They waited while the stream of people flowed past ; and when 
an acquaintance came, who was going to shake hands with 
Robina's companion as one of the many brothers, she piteously 
asked for tidings of her party. 



Crap. 

XXXVIII. 



360 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXVIIL 



^ I saw Miss Underwood in Lady Hammond's carriage at the 
other door.* 

* That accounts for it,' said Lord Ernest ; ' I saw there was an 
eddy in the flood. Shall we go across?' 

The move was a rehef^ and Robina hoped to find Felix waiting 
for her at the other door, for the hall was emptying fast, and they 
were the last to make their exit by the opposite porch. Not only 
were the carriages gone, but the foot-passengers ; and the policemen 
were shutting the doors behind them, so diat there was no 
returning across the halL 

* I will go round to the High Street again,' said Robina. Some 
of them will be sure to come back to look for me.' 

* Where did you have luncheon? Will nx^t they be there?' 

* At Mr. Welsh's ; but I don't think we were to go back there. 
We were to get in at the inn where the carriage was to be put up, 
only I don't know the name of it My brother drove there after 
setting us down.' 

Lord Ernest applied to a policeman for the name and locality 
of the principal stables. * The Antelope,' he said ; but it proved 
to be in the opposite direction to Mr. Welsh's, and so distant that 
Robina doubted whether Felix could have gone thither. She 
begged not to delay her companion ; and he answered, as she 
knew he would, that he was quite at her service ; indeed^ she 
was quite at her ease so far as he was personilly concerned, and 
if it had been any other town in the kingdom except perhq)s 
Bexley, Oxford, or Minsterham, she would sooner have trusted to 
him in a difficulty than to any one whose name did not end with 
wood. He was too considerate to worry her with talking during 
the quick walk, and with some difficulty he caught a busy ostler, 
who averred that Mi*. Underwood's carriage had not been there at 
all — ^no, not the horse, which he knew perfectly well. He evi- 
dently thought the new Squire's family rightly served for deserting 
their ancient haunt, and he ran away instead of answering 
whether there were other yards nearer Mr. Welsh's. 

Nothing remained but to retrace their steps up the steep High 

Street that climbed the Castle cliflf, meeting many a load of happy 

people who had found their carriages. Presently they came full 

1 on Mrs. Fulbert Underwood, who had been one of the callers 



K, T. 



361 



in the last week, but who would have passed without recognition, 
but for Robina's despairing entreaty, * Could you teU me where our 
carriage can be put up ? ' 

* What ! Rosina Underwood I I am surprised !* 

* I have missed the others in the crowd at the Castle. I thought 
I should have met them at the Antelope, but our carriage has not 
been there.* 

* We always put up at the Antelope,' said Mrs. Underwood ; 
* there may be inferior stables, but I do not know them. I have 
not been to all this lecturing — I don't like such things for ladies ; 
but I can go round by Vale Leston, and set you down.' 

*• No, thank you. I could walk if that were all, only I must find 
the others, for they will not go without me.' 

* Oh ! if you are better off — ^I did not see that you had a beau. 
Mr. Harewood?' 

* No,' said Robin, in her fiercest straightforwardness, * Lord 
Ernest de la Poer. You know I am his sisters* governess. He is 
kindly helping me to find my brother and sister.' 

* Oh ! I leave you in good hands. Good-bye. If I meet any 
of your party, I will mention that I have seen you.' 

Robina had been reddening all the afternoon. She was crimson 
now, but she was resolved not to make things worse by visible 
discomposure. 

* Who was that obliging lady ? ' asked Lord Ernest. 

* The last Mr. Underwood's daughter-in-law,' said Robin, so 
angry as to disclaim connection as much as possible ; * perhaps 
one is well oflf to have only one odd sort of relation.' 

' I see a man who dined with Milwright yesterday,' exclaimed 
Lord Ernest. * He may not be above all inns but the Antelope.* 

He diarged across the street, and brought back intelligence of 
a Fox's Brush in Castle Street, and of a short cut through a narrow 
alley and the churchyard ; but there seemed risk of another miss, 
and besides, something like a waggonette was discerned near the top 
of the hilL It proved to be a break full of strangers ; and by that 
time Robina, though bravely breasting the hill, was so tired 
and breathless that Lord Ernest offered his arm, but was refused 
with a certain weary sharpness. 

At last the corner of Castle Street afibrded a view of another 



Chai\ 
XXXVIII. 



362 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXVIII. 



hopeful looking vehicle a good way down ; and at the same 
moment, Felix, very pink, hurried up from one quarter, aad Will 
Harewood, fiery red, dashed down from another. 

Felix had been to the Antelope by the by-street, and had met 
Mrs. Fulbert, then had posted after to overtake them; Willie 
had been all round the Castle, trying every gate in vain; Mr. 
Harewood was on the quest in another direction. 

Robina thanked her escort, Felix did so more coldly, Willie 
gave a savage little bow, and they parted. Cherry was waiting in 
the waggonette, with the Major, who might not be overwalked, 
sitting on the box, holding the horse ; and as Will was about to 
plunge after his father, Cherry called, * Pray put on your hat 1 you 
look like a mad hatter instead of the March hare.' 

* Enough to drive one mad,* muttered Will, sharply, pulling, his 
hat nearly down to his eye-brows, and disappearing just as his 
father came soberly back from inquiry at Mr. Welsh's. 

This time it was decided to drive down the High Street — ^always 
a slow operation, since it required a drag ; and Felix left the reins 
in John's more practised hands, through the difficult navigation. 
They drew up at sight of Will in confabulation with Mrs. Fulbert, 
not much to the improvement of the serenity of his manner as he 
bestowed himself within the vehicle. Geraldine begun taking all 
the blame on her own bad chaperonage, and pit3dng Robina for 
being heated and tired. 

* Well she may I ' said Will, * after galloping all over the place 
with that donkey.' 

* A four-legged donkey might have been convenient,' said 
Cherry, laughing ; * but how came you to be left to him ? I thought 
you safe with the Squire.' 

' The Squire was called off to speak to some one,' said Robina. 

* And I am afraid you were remiss, WilHam,* said the Librarian. 

* She seemed well satisfied,' he growled. 

* I think you forget yourself,' said his* father, gravely, as if his 
first-class son were still a littie boy. The most courteous of men 
himself, he was always trying to teach manners to his family, but 
had egregiously failed excepting with the Major. 

That Fobina's adventure was relished by no one, might be 
gathered from the fact that none of the five alluded to it, and no 



K, T. 



363 



objection was made when she came down the next morning in a 
stay-at-home garb, and announced her intention of remaining to 
assist in preparing for * the spread ' of Wednesday. 

Cherry could not help remembering Wilmef s allegation that 
Robina was apt to attach much importance to ordinary attention ; 
but at least if there were an error, it was on the side of precaution ; 
and Cherry had so many qualms of conscience at taking her 
pleasure and devolving the trouble on Wilmet, that she was glad 
to leave so effective an assistant 

The day's entertainment was Mr. Harewood's lecture and 
another in the morning, and then a sort of picnic at the Roman 
villa. Lord Ernest found the Vale Leston party out, and 
Cherry thought he looked a little blank ; but he took to cultivating 
her, and in the absence of her more distinguished cavaliers, made 
himself very pleasant, though she discerned that he cared not a 
rush for its baths and mosaic pavements; but she liked him 
so much, and thought him so genuinely kind and attentive, as to 
acquit him of all but humane courtesy to his sisters' governess, 
only hoping Robina so understood it 

That night Felix was dutifully writing his summary of the 
proceedings of the day, when a knock came to his study door, and 
as his boding soul anticipated, it was the prelude to Robina's 
entrance. With a solemn directness, not unlike that when she 
had dealt the death-blow to his early dream, she thus addressed 
him : * Brother, are you very busy, or can you speak to me ?' 

He felt a cold dismay, and only said, * Well ! ' 

* It hardly seems right even to tell you, but I have this letter, and 
I want you to help me.* 

* A letter I' 

* Troublesome ass T was at the tip of his tongue, but he 
was thankful it had gone no further, when Robina answered, 
*Yes, from Lady de la Poer, and from Grace. You brought 
them from the second post.' 

* You are in no scrape, I trust ?' he 5aid, somewhat relieved, but 
not enough for warmth or encouragement 

* Not that I know of,' said Robina, * though I don't know 
whether I shall be able to go back after this.' And the tears 
came into her eyes. 



Chap. 
XXXVIIL 



3^4 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXVIII. 



' And what is this V said Felix. ' Don't be afraid to tell me, my 
dear ; I know you mean honestly/ 

She seemed to have some difficulty in beginning, and finally put 
a note with a coroneted cipher into his hand. He read — 

My dear Miss Unde&wood. 

I hope you are in fall enjoyment at home. I believe Grace keeps 

you fully informed of the doings here, so I will not waste time over the where* 

fore of the inquiry I feel constrained to make — among other reasons, to satisfy 

myself of the children's truth. Cecil has told Lady Caergwent, on Susan's 

authority, that his brother Ernest told you that K (or C) T were the two most 

troublesome letters of the alphabet, an unmitigated bore except in cricket As 

you know, Susan always holds fast to Cecil ; and for their sakes we trust to 

you to tell us what was said or misunderstood. We should, of course, apply 

to Ernest himself, but he went on Thursday to the Ballford cricket-match, and 

we do not know how soon he will return : otherwise I should not disturb your 

, holiday. Susie and Annie seem lost without you ; and I rather suspect that 

idleness was in this case the mother of mischief, though some foundation there 

must have been, and I am sure you will let me clearly understand what it 

was. 

Yours very sincerely, 

Frances ds la Fobs. 

Felix drew a long breath ; then smiled, and asked, ' What does 

it all mean ? ' 

* Don't you see? K T. Katie — Lady Caergwent' 

' And did you really receive this extraordinary confidence f 

' Not quite like that' 

^ Is this your Countess in her own right, who was said to be 
engaged to one of the De la Poers ?' 

' To Lord Ernest, yes ;' and to Felix's satisfection, there was no 
shrinking from his eye — she looked clear and innocent 'The 
slip you sent me from that paper was altogether impertinent and 
premature. There is no engagement yet, but there is to be:' 

' In spite of this opinion about the letters of the alphabet?* 

* That is no more than one of Bear's growls. You must know, 
Lady Caergwent is an odd girL She is only twenty, very clever at 
any headwork, but curiously childish about anything real Her 
uncle and aunt, with whom she Uves, were obliged to go abroad 
with Mrs. Umfraville's sick brother ; and she is a ward in Chancery, 
and could not go, so she has been at Repworth all the summer. 



a; t. 



36s 



I believe the elders have settled it. Colonel Umfraville says if 
she does not marry young she will never marry at all' 
*Are you in his confidence too?* 

* No, but Lord de la Poer talks to Lord Repworth, and he tells 
Grace. They are all open-hearted ; and, except Lady Fanny, none 
of them can help talking.' 

* Well, I didn't know manages de convenance went on still' 

* No, indeed ; they really like each other. No one could doubt 
it some time ago, when they were not thinking about it ; and 
there is a sort of understanding that it will be, though it is not to 
come on formally till he has done with Oxford. Well, that under- 
standing has spoilt every one's comfort' 

* I should think so !' 

* Will you not see, Felix, that they really care for one another, 
only he is a little ashamed of the good match, and its all being 
made up for them. Then this summer has been unlucky : he was 
to read with Mr. Crichton, the Curate, a very clever man, a friend 
of Lord Repworth, who teaches Cecil and some of the girls Latin.' 

* Is he married ?* 

* Oh dear yes !' 
'Then he is a KT?' 

* Twice over, by name and nature. It would have done very 
well for Lord Ernest to read with him, as he did last year, if they 
had been let alone. Not that Lady Caergwent wants to interrupt 
Her uncle has taught her a good deal of those kind of things ; 
indeed, she spurred Adelaide up to it, and only wanted to work 
with her and her brother,' 

* Spurring leads to recalcitration — eh ?* 

* If you would only understand. She is not at all what you are 
fancying. She is a sort of intense child She is slight and 
feminine, a great coward, as nervously excitable as Cherry, and 
shewing it more, so that her eagerness quite overdoes people. 
Then, she is very shy, and so much hates to take the initiative, 
that people think her proud and ungracious. I soon found the 
only way to set her at her ease was to behave as if we were two 
giris on equal terms. It is so provoking, when she has just been 
the life of the whole schoolroom, to see her shrivel up as if a 
stranger was a blight — especially a shy one. And the more she 



Chap. 

xxxvin 



366 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXVIII 



makes a conscience of being agreeable, the worse it is, for the 
nervous fright paralyzes her. There never was any one with so 
little presence of mind. She can't get on without being under 
somebody's wing. And another unlucky thing is that she has no 
dexterity of hand, and hates all games that turn on it, like croquet 
There's no keeping out of them, for there is a garden-party at 
Repworth to all tlie neighbours every Tuesday in the summer; 
and there would be quite a fuss among the natives if Lady 
Caergwent did not show herself. I believe her uncle put her 
under a solemn promise not to sit in the pollard in the park with 
Addy all the afternoon. So she plays like a martyr, infinitely 
worse than among ourselves, and some one always has to get her 
through to end the affair. The last day before I came home I 
had stayed in with little Susan, who was upset with the heat, and 
had been naughty enough to be kept in as a sort of sedative 
penance. I thought she was asleep on her board when Lord 
Ernest came in. Now, Lady Caergwent had been all the morning 
poking out some dates and marking some books she knew he 
would want ; and she had left them with me for him to take when 
he came in for the two hours' reading he always was to take before 
dinner, and which she never let him oflf. If I had seen at first 
how hot and fuming he was with the bother first of her croquet 
and then of her hints, I should have put off executing my com- 
mission; but unluckily I gave my message, and he broke out, 
" Crichton, croquet, (pronouncing the t,) K T for ever — ^the most 
intolerable conjunction in the alphabet — nothing tolerable spelt 
with them." I laughed, and said, ''^Is cricket in that categovjT 
and he answered, " The only one that is not an unmitigated bore."' 

* But, Robin, what would Wilmet say to your having him 
gossipping in your schoolroom ?* 

* It is not my schoolroom, it is Miss Oswald's, and the brothers 
are all tame about her like their sisters. Indeed, this was a mere 
accident ; and when I found he meant to stay and grumble, I 
made an excuse about looking for Annie, and left him. Now 
hear what Grace says : — 

' We have an awkward mess just now, and I hope you can help us oat of it. 
You know how Papa dislikes that cricket mania which makes plajring at a 
match a sort of public duty, to which everything is to be sacrificed ; and how 



K. T. 



367 



the bo3^ say he would not mind if Colonel Umfraville had not worked him 
tip. At any rate, as it was understood that Ernest was reading, and could 
not play in matches, the Breretons need not have summoned him fiery-cross 
fashion to their Oxford eleven. Kate broke out in the middle of breakfast, 
that it was a great shame, and she hated bondage ; and he was provoked to 
answer, " So did he." Mamma hushed it down ; but Kate's blood was up, and 
she never knows when to let a thing alone, so she hunted him into a comer 
after breakfast, and argued with him ; and you know no man could stand that' 

* No, indeed,' said Felix. * It is quite enough to have to marry 
a Countess .f 

* Don't, Felix ! If you could only see the slight clinging thing ! 
It all comes of her eager faith in her uncle. It is imploring, not 
domineering.' 

* Well, go on ; was that what drove him here ?* 

* Gracie goes on — 



Chap. 
XXXVIII. 



* They must have been very near a quarrel, for she rushed off, and unluckily 
came full pelt upon Papa. She did not speak, but he had seen tears in her 
eyes, and that brought it to a crisis. He accused Ernest of trifling with her, 
and amusing himself with everybody else ; and Ernest made some answer that 
I am afraid was very foolish, and went off to Ballford. I met him in the hall, 
and he said things were past endurance, he should like to enlist as a private 
soldier, and he did not know when he was coming home, but I thought he only 
meant whether it would be Saturday or Monday. Kate was vexed, but would 
not shew it ; and when she found Cecil dawdling in a fit of the nothing-to-does, 
she suggested some sensible employment, and that exasperated him into telling 
her Ernest had gone away because he said that all K Ts were horrible. I 
don't think Kate would have mentioned it ; but she turned white, and Addy 
was there, and was furious with Cecil, and it came to such a row that Mamma 
came in. Cecil stood out that Susie heard him say it to you, and Susan added 
that it was because Kate is so tiresome at croquet, and set him such a long 
lesson. Mamma thought she should have it out with him if she went to fetch 
him home from Ballford and had him all to herself ; but when she came there, 
he was gone, and none of the Breretons could tell where. I fancy it may 
be to Eweford, for Mr. Milwright wanted both him and Repworth for his 
ecclesiological meeting. If you see him, pray talk to him and send him home, 
for Kate has been in great trouble about it, laying the blame on herself, (as 
well she may,) and she has actually written to her other uncle, Mr. Wardour, 
to propose going to him. It is very horrid. Papa feels keenly that she has 
been — ^what he calls insulted in his house by his sons ; and yet we can't 
do much, because — oh why is she not only Kate Umfraville ? The light is 
gone out of her brown eyes, and she looks as she did before the Colonel 
came home. She wants to be too proud to show it to us, but there is no 



$68 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXYIII. 



pride in her, and she can't act it If yon could only get at that boy and 
send him home, it would all come right. There's the whole story : I hope it 
will not spoil your pleasure ; but if you have a scrap of time, write, am* 
comfort your poor loving 

G. DE LA P. 



There was an odd look in Felix's face as he said, * Poor young 
man !* 

* It is too bad of him !' said Robina, hotly. 

* And are you armed with a long whip to send him back to his 
Countess and his book ?* 

* Please, Felix:, be in earnest ! It is a serious matter.' 

* Because it concerns such exalted personages.' 

* No,' said Robina, the tears burning in her eyes, * because 
Grace is my friend, and Kate Caergwent a dear bright girl, who 
must not have her life spoilt — nor he either. Felix, you never 
were unfeeling before !' 

* Have you let them know where to find their truant ?* 

' I had begun a letter this morning, but had no time to finish.' 

* But you can give your evidence on the K T case by to- 
morrow's post' 

* Yes, if you can get my letter to Ewmouth before nine o'clock.' 

* I will take care of that ; and then you will have done all that 
ought to be expected of you.' 

* Oh ! I must speak to Lord Ernest' 

* Really, Robina, I am so thankful to see you so well out of the 
scrape that I don't see why you should thrust yourself into it 
Surely, when the boy's parents know where to find him, they arc 
competent to act' 

* Don't you see, they will not get my letter till the day after to- 
morrow, and by that time Lady Caergwe;nt will have gone. Now, 
if he would only go back to-morrow of his own accord, it would 
have a much better grace. Why do you laugh, Felix?' 

* I prof^^s not: to understand lords and ladies,' said Fe&x, 
recovering his gravity \ ♦ but I doubt the effectiveness of the 
ren^onstrance, and I greatly fear your burning your own fingers.' 

'There's no fear of that,' she said, with dignity. * It is a duty to 
friends who are dearer and kinder to me than any one here 
believes 1' And the tears started on her cheeks. 



K. T. 



369 



* Of your duty you are the best judge. I see you must have 
been discreet, to have earned so much affection and confidence. 
I own I should have thought the fewer who meddled in such 
a concern the better! and that — ^though I daresay it is very 
shocking — there was something rather wholesome in the poor 
boy's exertion of free will.* He was near laughing, the whole 
affair struck him as so ludicrous, especially Robina's look of 
dismay. 

* Oh I His sisters ! Lady Caergwent ! His mother, and all ! 
Oh no ! If I don't try my utmost to get him home, I should feel 
treacherous — ^as if I were encouraging him here/ 

* Honestly, do you think your being here has an)rthing to do 
with his coming ?' 

* N— no ! At least, I think the sight of you all so bright and 
pleasant at the station put it into his head. He is very much 
amused with Angela ; but — oh no ! I am certain he does not 
come after any one — ^least of all me I' 

' There is one person who seems to think otherwise, if I may 
judge from his manner,' said Felix, tentatively. 

* It is very unjust and unfair T cried Robina, flaming up. * He 
ought to know and trust me better. I will not heed such un- 
worthy fancies. A son of the house, indeed ! He ought to know 
that if there were no other reason, I should think it dishonourable.' 

*Yet was it not on that account that you stayed at home 
tb-day?* 

*Yes,' she said more softly; *but that ought to content him, 
I cannot give up a duty for unworthy suspicions.' And her neck 
bridled, and her eyes shone with hurt dignity through her tears. 

* Well, Robina, you know best. You understand your own 
affairs, I suppose, and I see you are really trying to act rightly and 
honourably. I will give you any opportunity I can of speaking to 
this youth, though, for your own sake, I should strongly advise 
your only giving him his mother's letter, and letting it speak for 
itsel£' 

Robina shook her head. It was useless to argue it further. 
Like a woman, and a young woman, she was resolved to run all 
risks in her friend's cause, deeming it ignoble to make any con- 
cession to WiDiam's unfounded jealousy, and not appreciating Felix's 

vou II. 2 B ' 



Chap, 
XXXVIII. 



370 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXVIII. 



doubts of any young man, especially one in a chafing refractXTry 
mood, going back to the yoke at the behest of his sisters' govemess. 

Felix did not like it at all, but he was always slow to act where 
he did not understand his ground ; and the tone of the two letters 
showed such confidence in Robina, that he felt that her prudence 
might be trusted ; while as to William Harewood, an unrecognised 
engagement did not deserve consideration firom the family. 

So he kept her counsel, and let things take their course, on the 
busy confused morning that preluded the first attempt of the ^mily 
at an entertainment. 

Breakfast was enlivened by a discussion whether precedence was 
to be respected, and next what that precedence was. * Ought the 
Baron, or the Marquis's younger son, to come first and take Miss 
Underwood ?* 

* The Baron, I hope,' said Cherry. * Old men are twice as nice 
as young ones, though your fiiend is very pleasant, Bobbie. Which is 
it to be ? You are the experienced one.' 

* Not I,' said Robina. * Of course I don't dine late, and they go 
into luncheon nohow, as I should say was the best way here. Let 
Felix take Lady Hammond, and leave the rest to settle it Depend 
upon it, they know their places better than we do.' 

* " Ladies and Gentlemen, sort yourselves," as the parson said, 
when he had married five couple all at one go,' said Bernard. 

* Don't they sometimes stick in the door-way curtseying ? They 
do in books,' said Cherry. 

* Not out of them,' said Robin. * If there is a choice, I think 
age gets it more than actual rank.' 

* There's nothing Lord Ernest hates like dowagers,' cried Angela, 
* when all the jolly girls are out of reach.' 

* What do you know about it, Angela ?' said Felix, rather sharply. 

* I've heard him say so twenty times. We are prodigious allies, 
and it was very sly of Robin never to tell me he was coming. 
Bear and I would have got up Dobby for his special edification.' 

* You will do no such thing, for him or any one else 1' broke forth 
in displeasure from Felix. 

Angela shrugged her shoulders. * Our Squire has grown very 
peremptory since he came to his kingdom,' she said ; and perhaps 
he thought so, for he said to her at a quiet moment, 'Angela 



K, T, 



371 



perhaps I should have given you credit for not meaning what you 
said. You must know the impropriety of playing tricks on our 
guests, more especially when concerned with the world of spirits.' 

The words appealed to the more accessible side of her nature, 
and she was silent He considered whether to warn her about 
Lord Ernest, but was deciding that it would only excite her to 
further mischief, when he was summoned to admire the preparations 
that had absorbed the home party all the previous day. 

The screen, a high wooden carved one, entirely cut off the end 
of the long room appropriated to the household prayers. The long 
table was laid with the fine old damask, the wealth of plate, glass, 
and old china, to which the substantial cold viands, and the jellies 
and creams, compounded by Wilmet and her ingenious Elrishnu, 
were now to be added. The only failure had been in the unlimited 
lobsters, which had been all absorbed by Ewmouth itself; but then, 
Marilda, hearing all about it from Lance on his way through London, 
had actually sent them last night two venison pasties and a grouse 
pie, ready made, besides a great deal of her beat fruit 

All stood admiring except Geraldine, who cried, * Oh, that big 
epergne 1 Oh, those dahlias 1 They are just like a pincushion, or 
Protheroe's window ! Stella — Bear — Bobbie — for pity's sake get 
me some fuchsias — ^traveller's joy, Bougainvillia — anything trailing 
— ^and I'll get a little of the stiffness out before Wilmet comes, and 
then she'll never find it out 1 And where's my salt-cellar ? Oh for 
Lance V 

When Wilmet came upon the scene, she found Cherry seated as 
the centre-piece on the table, contending with the difficulties of 
adorning without concealing the curious old salt, the table-cloth 
bestrewn with green leaves and fallen fuchsia bells, and the epergne, 
the triumph of her art, the subject of her distant admiration at the 
last dinner party of the olden time, (Clement's christening feast,) 
relegated to a much inferior station, its formal glories of purple and 
crimson quilled dahlias obscured by loose streamers of passion- 
flower and hoary clematis. 

Other people besides Robina had something to bear that day, 
but there was nothing in which John's influence was more shewn 
than in the mutual forbearance of Wilmet and Geraldine. The 
latter took the initiative with a torrent of thanks and apologies ; 

2 K 2 



Chap. 
XXXVIII. 



^72 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap, 
XXXVIII. 



and Wilmet, remembering whose house it was, submitted with a 
good grace, and concealed her vexation by hurrying to the kitchen 
to take the jellies out of their moulds. There at least she was 
supreme. Martha was only too glad to have her to sympathize 
with her new glories, and for her sake could even bear with * that 
there blackamore chap.'* 

Robina, in a nearly sleepless night, had decided on giving 
William a word or two of explanation as to her having a message 
from home for Lord Ernest \ but in the rush after flowers, Angela 
had carried Bill off to rob a wisteria of its second bloom, and by 
the time they came back, Felix was hurrying his party into the 
waggonette. 

Only the gentlemen went ; the ladies had enough to do at 
home, since it was only too true that Cherry's improvements had 
doubled their work, and she felt herself the more graceless that she 
could not run about to supply the labour she had created. Indeed, 
all were watching lest she should overtire herself; but she was one 
of those who never feel weariness while excitement lasts. 

The last jelly was scarcely in its place, the last wine-glass ad- 
justed, when Angela announced a carriage turning over the bridge; 
and the long approach up the lane, and down the drive enabled 
Cherry, by the united efforts of her sisters, to cast her housewifely 
slough, don her white dress and mauve ribbons, and seat herself in 
the drawing-room, with Clement as her supporter. 

Luckily Cherry had never been afraid of people, and she faced 
the inroad with great composure. This proved to be only the 
advanced guard, namely, Mr. Milwright, bringing Lord Ernest and 
a fellow ecclesiologist with whom he wanted to hold a private 
discussion over the fragments of a shrine in the south transept ; 
and Clement went to shew his discoveries. 

So cruelly were opportunities wasted, that Robina was in the far 
end of the west wing, dressing herself and Angela, while Lord 
Ernest was having a twenty minutes tite-d-tite with Cherry, whom 
he consulted as to joining Will Harewood's reading party, and 
told her that the Vale Leston choir was renowned as th'e best in 
the neighbourhood ; and that old Milwright, being unable to go ir 
out-and-out for the mediaeval, let things alone, and was content with 
two fiddles and a flute. Wherefore he should walk from Eweford on 



^m^i^ 



mm 



«■■■* 



mmmm 



^^ft^i^F 



mm 



wn 



mmrmn^^mfmn 



*^ 



A". 7! 



the ensuing Sunday, to this — simply the most charming place he had 
ever seen. Whereupon Miss Underwood innocently invited him 
to luncheon between the services. 

Robina could only come down just as Felix returned, immediately 
followed by the whole multitude, exceeding the expectations of the 
family so much, that Marilda's pasties were a comfortable reflection, 
and Wilmet's imagination fell to reckoning knives and forks. 
Places at the table must be hopeless for many ; and when Felix, in 
desperation, offered an arm to Lady Hammond, he left a chaos 
behind which he hoped would, as Bernard said, * sort itself.' 

People must have been quite as curious about the Underwoods 
as about their Priory, for the most improbable guests had come, 
even the undesirable peer, whose earldom complicated matters. 
He assumed, however, that the eldest and handsomest bonnetless 
lady must, be her of the house, and accordingly gave his arm to 
Mrs. Harewood ; Lord de Vigny, who knew better, took his old 
acquaintance, Miss Underwood, and dipped her once more in the 
dear old world of art ; the others paired somehow, and, as Robina 
had foreseen. Lord Ernest left himself behind with the common herd, 
who, after the seats at the long table were occupied, betook them- 
selves to the cushioned embrasures of the windows, and to catering 
for themselves at the side-board, where, happily, there was no lack 
of supplies. It was great fun, and Angela agreed with Lord Ernest 
in pronouncing it so much jollier than a wedding-breakfast, as there 
were no wretched victims to be turned off. If there were any 
victims, one was Robina, who was penned up in a comer by Mr. 
Henry Shaw, doing his best to be polite ; and the other was Will, 
who had on his hands two ladies, a gushing mother and daughter, 
who had just discovered him to be the author of those delicious 
songs, signed March Hare ! 

The discourse, the occasion of all, began in the long room, Mr. 
Milwright taking up station after station, while people herded 
round to look at what he pointed out This tour must be Robina's 
opportunity. There were a good many stragglers from the troop of 
listeners ; and among them was Angela, keeping close to Lord 
Ernest, and delighted to take him on a counter round, displapng 
all the charms of her new home. 

This Robina had expected. She knew that it might be said 



0/3 



Chap. 
XXXVIII. 



374 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXVIII. 



that the two young Miss Underwoods were running after that 
young man, and she wanted to speak as soon as possible, to put 
an end to the pursuit. So when Angela had led him to a shed 
where resided an owl captured in the church tower, she took the 
bull by the horns. * Angel, I have a message from Repworth to 
deliver. I must ask you to leave us a little while.' And she opened 
the door leading into the walled kitchen garden. Angela shrugged 
her shoulders, but fell back. 

* And so you have betrayed me ? Could not you let a poor 
fellow breathe a little free air for once in his life?' 

* Read that V was all her answer. 

The effect of his mother's letter resembled that on Felix ; be 
burst out laughing, much more unreservedly exclaiming, *Well 
done, Cecy 1' 

* But it is not what you said !' 

* Wasn't it ? Then my words fell short of my thoughts. What 
was it the King of France said when he had got away from captivity 
or Catherine de Medici (his K Ts, you see) — " I am yet a man 
and a brother." ' 

' Please don't make light of it. Grace is in such distress.' 

* There generally is a commotion when a prisoner breaks loose. 
I thought better of you. Miss Underwood, than to suppose you a 
detective in disguise.' 

* I only want you to realize how wrong it is that you should be 
here.' 

* I assure you it is all for the family honour. Tout est perdu fm 
Vhonneur. — ^That was the fellow's sentiment — ^wasn't it ?' 

* I don't see the application.' 

* Don't you ? Sha'n't I be ploughed to a dead certainty if I go 
on trying to carry this on at home !' said Lord Ernest, much more 
seriously. * How about ikonneur then?' 

Robina could not deny the danger, and knew not how to answer. 
He saw his advantage, and pursued it 'Was not reading, under 
the circumstances, a delusion ? You won't speak treason ? Never 
mind, I see it in your eyes. You know that between all the K Ts 
within and without doors, it was providential that I retained suffi- 
cient combination of ideas to effect my escape before I was quite 
distracted.' 



K, T, 



375 



* I don't think you guess the distress you have caused,' said 
Robina, gravely. 

* What, Gracie has written you a deplorable letter ? Gone to the 
bad entirely, am I ? My mother weeping, my father wailing, my 
sister sobbing, our K T wringing her hands — ' Then, as she moved 
decidedly away, with a gesture expressive of deep displeasure, 
' Nay — I declare they are re-assured. Even if you haven't — I 
have written to my father ; and they know by this time that the 
vortex r have rushed into is nothing worse than a conglomeration 
of antiquarian old fogies.' 

* Oh ! if you have written — ' she began, feeling that Felix had 
been right, and she herself more or less of a goose. 

* Yes. I have written to explain that my brain won't stand 
being beset within doors and without, and to propose joining 
Hare wood's reading-party.' 

Robina fairly started. * Do you know if he will have you ?' 

* I hope he can. He is a crack coach, you know, little as he 
looks it. Wonderfully able man when he makes the most of 
himself.' 

' I think he has as many pupils as he has room for,' said Robina, 
highly gratified, but hoping to avert what might drive Will beyond 
all bounds. 

' I hope not Your sister seemed to think it might be managed.' 

* What, Angela?' 

* No j Miss Underwood — is she not ? The one who was in the 
room first What a delightful countenance she has, by-the-by, it 
strikes me more than Mrs. Harewood's. It is a rare thing to 
meet so much beauty afloat in one family.' 

However complimentary, he must not be allowed to run on in 
this way ; and his monitor returned abruptly to the charge. * I 
allow that it is hard to read at the Towers ; but before you make 
any other arrangements, I think you ought to go home this very 
evening and explain things. There is a train at 4.11, at Church 
Ewe.' 

* Have you got a policeman outside to give me in charge to ?' 

* No,' she answered, with some anger ; * but Lady Caergwent is 
going away to-morrow !' 

His first impulse was a little whistle of dismay ; but he caught 



Chap. 
XXXVIII. 



376 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXVIII. 



it up, and coolly said, * Joy- go with her, a K T clasm ! You Lave 
not let Grace cram you with all that V 

By this time Robina was thoroughly sensible of the false position 
she had got herself into, and had only to get herself out of it as 
fast as she could, so she took the path between the espaliers and 
scarlet-runners which would soonest lead back to public haunts, 
saying decidedly, * I do not want to hear anything about it' 

' It seems to me,' said her companion, with more of the man 
than he had yet assumed, * that having entered on this, you should 
allow me to remind you that this is a free country, and these are 
not the days of family compacts. I will not go home, to be 
badgered whatever I say or do. I will strike out my own line, 
and work for myself.' 

* But your father — !' 

* If I know my father, he will like me the better for it The 
Colonel has a way of making him see things in his point of view, 
and it was a tidy little plan ; but there are not so many men in 
this world born for prince-consorts, and they have not got hold of 
one of the sort. There, now, you have discharged your duty! 
You may tell Grace what I say — the whole houseful, if you like.' 

* Very well,' said Robina coldly, glad to have nearly reached a 
door opening upon a laurel path. * It is of no use to say any 
more. You have written, and I have no more to do with it' 

* I didn't think you were on the enemy's side !' he proceeded, 
as if pleading with her displeasure. * I know you are one to like 
a fellow the more for having a spark of independence. Come, 
you may as well say so ; it is in your nature, I've seen it, and you 
owe me compensation for all that you have rehearsed to me in the 
spirit of the K Ts.' 

This was in a tone between warmth and raillery, that made it 
very difficult to know how to reply ; and all she could think of 
was, * You can be the only judge of what is right and manly.' 

* There then !' as if he had done with the subject * Oh ! don'l 
open the door. Let us have another turn. I want to tell you 
about my plans. This is almost as good as losing ourselves.' 

* I can't,' said Robina, with much repressive displeasure, * I am 
wanted. I only came to shew you your mother's letter ;' and she 
plunged into the laurel-walk. 



A". T. 



37) 



* Then I am much obliged to my mother's letter/ was the reply, 
in a tone that conveyed more than the words. 

Therewith, at the other end of the path, were seen Mrs. Fulbert 
Underwood, Miss Martha Hepburn, and Mr. Harry Shaw. They 
met ; Robina shook hands ; Lord Ernest moved his hat ; but though 
* Jane ' made a low curtsey, her observation was marked — * Oh ! 
so you have lost yourself again, Rosina !' 

* My name is Robina, if you please,' she exclaimed, glad to 
have something to contradict 

* Ah ! I never can remember ! It is so peculiar T 

* Peculiarly pretty,' said Lord Ernest * It puts one in mind 
of all sorts of pleasant associations.' 

* It is Scottish, after Miss Hepburn,' said Robina, severely 
turning from him. 

* Yes,' said Miss Martha. * It is a very old name with us, but 
we never called my sister by it ; we call her by her name of Ehza- 
beth, it is less romantic but more sensible.' And Miss Martha, 
frightened at speaking so like Isabella, laughed a little to diminish 
the stem effects. 

Robina hoped to shake off Lord Ernest by joining them, and 
said politely, ' I did not know you were here.' 

* Harry and I thought we would just come over to see what the 
learned men think of the poor old place ; but after all, it is only 
Mr. Milwright, and one can hear him any day, so we came round just 
to have a look at the old conservatories, which I used to dote on.' 

* You have had some luncheon ?' 

* Yes, tliank you, we got some cold pigeon pie. My dear, 
what a pity your sister did not apply to me! I could have 
recommended her to Patakake, who always did things for us. 
Whom could you have had ?' 

* Kerenhappuch,' said Robina solemnly, for, in spite of all her 
trouble, she was awake to the fun of the thing, and she greatly 
tickled Lord Ernest by the tone and the name. 

* Well, so Miss Martha said, but I could not believe it Done 
entirely at home ?' 

* Yes.' 

* Excuse me, my dear Ros — Robina, but it was a mistake in a 
position like yours.' 



Chap. 
XXXVIII 



378 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXVIII. 



' I am sorry if anything was not good/ 

* Oh ! that's not it. It is style that is the things especially in 
your position. It will not do to fall short of it ! — ^You agree with 
me, my Lord, air is ever)rthing.' 

* I much prefer good food/ he answered ; at which Harry Shaw 
broke into a hearty laugh, and Robina could not help joining. 
Perceiving, perhaps, that his dictum would go for something, Lord 
Ernest gravely added, * If good food and good taste combined 
are the right thing, I am sure we had it to-day. I never saw a 
more thoroughly pretty or graceful set out — so well appointed too.' 

And though the two ladies agreed that the poor young man was 
very far gone, and that there was something artful about that girl, 
yet it silenced the lamentations for Patakake. Mrs. Fulbert 
declared it wonderful how those girls had managed it — ^but, of 
course, they had been brought up to such things ; and Miss 
Martha — more good-naturedly — ^made it known that *that young 
nobleman had never seen anything equal to it for style and good 
taste !' 

* Of course, simplicity was a relief after the jaded life of a man 
of fashion,' added Miss Isabella. 

* What, the Earl was there ! What a pity those young people 
should get into such a set !' 

By the time the lawn was reached, the discourse was ended, 
and people were scattered about on the garden-chairs, partaking 
of further refreshments handed by Krishnu, who had assumed his 
white and scarlet, and had an imposing effect, leading forth sundry 
footmen in diverse liveries as his assistants. Lord de Vigny had 
detected Geraldine's studio, and insisted on seeing her portfolio. 
She had somewhat flagged since her object had been attained, and 
among the excitements of the last year \ and the old gentleman 
gave her a real scolding for wasting such powers in little desultory' 
half-finished memorial kind of sketches. It was impossible not to 
laugh at the exaggerated feeling of the kind old courteous amateur ; 
but after all, the stimulus was good for her. She did not exactly 
accept the assurance that it was the first duty of her life to produce 
something every season for the Exhibition ; but the fresh eye, and 
the criticism, which had reality in it, though it was complimentary, 
stirred her up \ and she felt that it was not doing justice to the 



K. T. 



379 



gift of which 3he was a steward, to shrink, as she had done of late, 
from the train of attention and detail which the maturing an 
original subject cost her, besides that contributions to the house- 
keeping were really felt by all that could work for themselves to be 
almost due to him who toiled so freely for them and for his con- 
science. As to the neighbours, they only then and there discovered 
that the little lame Miss Underwood was an exhibitor at the 
Royal Academy, and that the queer old nobleman, with the loose 
grey hair, raved about her drawings. They regarded her the more 
or the less according as they most esteemed genius or gentility ; 
and as Miss Martha Hepburn said, *No one would ever have 
found it out' * As if they expected me to go about in a white turban 
and a palette on my thumb, Uke the pictures of Angelica Kaufman T 
said Cheny, laughing, as Angela reported this speech while the 
home party stood under the porch, after seeing off their last guests. 
There was plenty of indulgence in self-gratulations, and a 
universal contribution of the observations each had received, 
almost all resulting in declaring their house-warming a great 
success. In the midst, some correspondence of eye between 
Robina and her eldest brother, brought the colour into her cheek 
as she drew nearer to him. He held out his hand to her, and 
when the others dispersed to their rooms, they began to walk 
together under the wall 

* You spoke to him?' 

* Yes. Oh 1 I wish I hadn't You were right He had written 
to his father, after all !' 

* Then it is off your mind ?' 

* Yes. No— it would be — ' She fell into a terrible tangle of 
hesitation and broken words, out of which he thus interpreted, 

* You found the situation awkward ? ' 

* Oh ! I ought not to complain, for it was my own doing when 
you warned me, and I don't believe he meant it; but — but — ^it 
iust amounts to this, that I can never freely say again that he 
never said, or tried to say, a word Uke flirting — to me. And I 
suppose it is my duty to tell, and — give them all up — ^ 

^ I suppose you had rather not tell me what he really said ? ' 

* It was not words so much as manner — ^assuming that I was on 
ais side at heart, and half laughing at me all the time. Then, 



Chap. 
XXXVIU 



38o 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXVIII. 



when he had told me quite seriously that the family compact was 
all nonsense, he grew a little more like that — wanted me to hear 
his plans, and stay away from the rest — said it was as good as 
our being lost.' 

* Is that all ?' 

*Yes; except that, when I said why I began, he answered, 
"Then I am much obliged to my mother's letter."' 

* Then, if there is no more, you had much better let things 
alone. If he has written to his father, a post or two will decide 
his recall ; and in the meantime, such a confession, though quite 
conscientious, would only make you ridiculous.' 

* Yes, I see that. I had much rather not Wilmet thinks I am 
always fancying such things — but you don't, Felix ! I only wish 
it were — ^ 

* I don't think you so silly, my dear,' said Felix. * No one can 
judge of maimer without seeing it ; but so little as you have to tell 
seems to me nothing to cry out about, and your confession might 
be misunderstood.' 

* Of course I don't want to do it ; but to keep it back when I 
write seems treacherous.' 

« Don't write !' 

* Not to Grace ?' 

* She knows you are much occupied ; and even if she do think 
you a little remiss, really even such a dreadful idea seems to me 
preferable to any fresh reports coming between this young man 
and his family, at what may be the turning-point of his life.* 

' I should not send a false report 1' 

* You could not help sending an excited one ; and if it were the 
actual short-hand notes of what passed, word for word, what could 
it do but give all the ladies something more to talk about? If 
Lord de la Poer be the same man in private life as in public, he 
and his son will understand one another much better without the 
interposition of any women's tongues, or pens, however kindly- 
intentioned.* 

' So he said — that his father would understand, and like him the 
better for being independent' 

* For my part, I could not understand what you told me f 

' He is so fond of Colonel Umfraville, and would be glad to see 



K, T. 



381 



one of his children like a son to him. I can't help hoping it will 
come right, for poor dear Lady Caergwent's sake.' 

* Then, once more, let it alone T 

She obeyed, with a sigh. It was a quiet evening, Felix and the 
Harewoods went to the soiree ; and the next day was that of the 
excursion to Stoneborough, for which Robina had not much heart, 
but that dreadful imputation of being apt to make a fuss about 
nothing prevented her from backing out She did not understand 
William, who had dropped his surly petulant manner, and was 
only exceedingly grave and quiet, keeping out of the way, and 
looking dejected and subdued. She longed to speak to him, but 
he specially avoided her, and this time Felix made her his special 
charge, transferring Cherry to John Hare wood's guidance. Both 
understood, almost without even a glance, that he wished to be 
free; and Cherry could not have had a more devoted cavalier 
than her brother-in-law, who never left her, except when the 
ascent of the Tower made Gertrude May hang back, declare she 
had had enough pf that, and beg to take Miss Underwood under 
her protection, to rest in her sister's drawing-room. 

And there Gertrude, in one of those curious accesses of con- 
fidence that congeniality sometimes produces, poured out a great 
deal of what was most individual to herself. Daisy had never set 
up a friend before, and had always been rather contemptuous of 
intimacies; but this was a case of love at first sight Geraldine 
was about six years her elder, and not in the category of * tiresome 
girls,' and while her sister's beauty was talked of, no one said 
much about her ; so Daisy fancied this a discovery of her own, 
and became devoted to her, especially when she began to touch on 
FeUx, and found that for hero-worship nothing could rival the 
sister. Geraldine had her reserves, but to find such a listener to 
the achievements of Felix was enough to open all her heart. 
And when the interruption came at last, all Gertrude thought of 
was when and how to meet again. 

Nothing worth note befell Robina; and on the Saturday the 
only event was Mr. Harewood's departure, and his son's dis- 
appearance immediately after. It turned out that he was walking 
to Penbeacon to make his final arrangements ; and when regrets 
were expressed that he had not borrowed a horse, John warned 



Chap. 
XXXVIIL 



382 



THE FILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXVIII. 



the proprietors against trusting a beast in WilFs hands; and 
Wilmet declared that, in mercy to his pupils, she should drive over 
next week and see whether the rooms were fit for anybody. Cle- 
ment spoke well of them, but she had little faith in him. 

On Sunday, just as the church bells were falling, and the 
Priory ladies were proceeding to the bench they had placed in the 
south transept, when leaving the chancel to the choir, there 
appeared the not very welcome outline of an aquiline young 
profile, with loose shining brown hair, peering about over the big 
oaken boxes that fenced up the central aisle ; and it was Angela 
who popped up her head to guide him to a local habitation. 

If it were true that Vale Leston rejoiced in the best choir in 
the neighbourhood, Ewshiie could not be well off, thought those 
who were used to the Bexley organ and choir under Lance's 
presidency. Clement had done a good deal in the past year with 
his boys, and had a good schoolmaster as organist ; but the best 
voices did not appertain to the best men, and those best men, 
being the most imbued with Hepbumism, viewed the gallery as a 
much more honourable place than the chancel, and would infinitely 
rather have sung in a dissenting chapel than in a surplice; but 
though they were little cultivated, and were still in what their 
vicar called motley, his voice, with the Squire's practised one, and 
Wiirs with its old chorister training, told enough to make the 
general effect far above the country average, and to merit the 
admiration with which Lord Ernest replied to Angela's exaggerated 
despaii at the dissonances. 

On the way through the Cloister he contrived to say to Robina, 

* I've heard from Papa— it is all right' She could only reply, 

* That is well !' with a real look of congratulation, though she felt 
that the use of the strictly domestic appellation was another 
dangerous implication of familiarity. After dinner she crept up to 
her own room, resolved to give neither encouragement to him noi 
offence to William, thinking it hard that the latter's last Sunday 
should be spoilt. The school would, she knew, keep Angela out 
of mischief, and Cherry would look after the guest if he deserved 
to be entertained. What had become of poor Lady Caergwent? 

Perhaps the sun was too hot in her southern room, for Robina 
grew restless over her books, and wandered into Cherry's painting 



K, T. 



383 



room, gazing listlessly from the windows. Then she saw a sight 
that surprised her — Will and Lord Ernest under the cedar, in a 
conference that lasted till the smallest bell began to ring. 

Felix was still more surprised by Will*s address to him some 
hours later. 

^ I just want to know one thing. Do you want that young 
fellow licked into shape — ^that young De la Poer?* he added, 
meeting Felix's look of blank amazement ' He wants me to take 
him in hand at Penbeacon. I told him I did not know if there 
was room — I really don't ; but the real question is — ^ and there he 
came to a dead stop. 

' The real question is — ' repeated Felix. 

* Whether you think it a good thing ?* continued Will, his head 
bent over a. cat's-cradle of string in which he had tied up his 
fingers. 

*A very good thing for him, and pecuniarily not a bad one 
for you.' 

' Botheration ! that has nothing to do with it. Can't you see 
what I mean ? Is it good for — ^her ?* and the poor little mono- 
syllable came out with a sort of groan. 

Felix pitied him enough to help him forward with, * For Robina, 
do you mean ? You are under a misapprehension, if you think it 
makes any difference to her 1' 

* Then you don't approve of it ? You don't want to put a stop 
to it?' 

* There is nothing to put a stop to, that I know of 1' 

* Ah ! then you don't know 1' said Will, lapsing into deep 
dejection. 

* I know she would consider what you imply as dishonourable 
and treacherous !' 

*No, no!' cried Will, vehemently; 'no such thing! Your 
sister in your house — as well-bom a lady as any in England — z. 
match for any man in the realm !' 

'There are other reasons, besides her position in the family, 
which would make her think it treason to encourage what, I 
believe, has no existence.' 

* Ah, then — ^you don't know what — ' and again he stopped short 
between dismay and oppression. 



Chai*. 
XXXVIII. 



384 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXVIII. 



* What do you mean ?* 

* No, no ; you shall not have it from me. Fm only sorry I sjud 
a word/ And the poor fellow was going away. 

* Hold, Bill ! Tell me what you mean ? • I believe I can 
explain it !* 

'There's only one expla — No; what am I saying? She has 
every right. You'll hear it soon enough !' 

He was turning the handle of the door, whe;i Felix said, * If you 
mean that Robina spoke to him in the kitchen-garden od 
Thursday, I know all about that !' 

* Indeed T His face altered instantly. 

* She had a letter from his mother that she thought he ought to 
see. She told me what she intended.' 

* Queer people, to find such a channel of communication,' said 
Bill, gruffly. ' And that was all ?* 

' The whole.' 

* Well 1 I never meant to act the spy ; but I'll tell you how it 
was, Felix. I had heard all Milwrighfs prose, and was sick of all 
the humbug; so I went into your study for a little peace, and 
there I heard Theodore fretting awfully in the next room — * 

* I know. You were so kind as to take him out' 

* He wanted you, and he wanted to be out ; and he was plagued 
and bothered at so many strangers about, and Sibby was nearly 
demented with having to keep him quiet and wash up the thingum- 
bobs. So this watch — it belongs to John, came from his aunt's ; 
but I've got it while mine is refitting — and it plays all manner of 
tunes. Theodore will come anywhere after it; so I got him 
into the kitchen-garden, thinking there would be peace there, and 
into the old root-house, and there what does he do but go to sleep 
on my knee !' 

* Yes ; he had had a bad night I was writing later than was 
good for him, and he was excited by the preparations.* 

* So while I was pinned down, I saw — from the little window— 
those two walking up and down at the further end of the garden,' 
and he made a gesture of utter despair. * It was no good shewing 
myself — I was out of hearing; but — And so,' he added, *I 
thought if I could anyway conduce to making him fit for her, it 
was all I could do for her.' 



K r. 



385 



* Very kind ! but you might have trusted her !' 

* Trast ! If I had any right T 
*She thinks you have!' 

* She !' and the face lighted up. * You don't mean that she 
holds to that 2 Of course you know nothing about it, though? 
Some childish nonsense passed years ago, but I never durst 
believe she remembered it.' 

* She knows it ought not to bind you, but— ' 

* Bind ! What should bind but the love of my whole heart, ever 
since I knew I had one ? I durst not speak again of it. When I 
came to perceive what I had done, I thought it not fair towards 
her to renew it, till I had the means to keep her as she ought to 
be kept ; for you know I've not got a preserve of old aunts, like 
Jack !' 

* Quite right, Will !' 

*And when she had been among all those swells, how did I 
know what she might not be wanting to take up with — ^never 
being much of a fellow to look at, any time ?' he added wistfully. 
• * I think you might have known her better ! ' 

* You see,' he broke out, * I don't want her to be held to me 
only by what took place long ago, when she was a child of thir- 
teen. That would be a downright shame, and I never meant to 
remind her till I had a home to offer her. There have been times 
when I made sure we understood one another j but to this hour I 
don't know whether she likes me a bit better than John, and if 
she — likes — this young man better — she has a perfect right!' 
concluded poor Will, with a great sob from his big honest chest 

* That you had better ascertain ! ' 

' Do you tell me so ? ' he exclaimed. 

* I am not exactly the person to tell you to do so ; but though I 
honour your conduct with all my heart, I think the mutual un- 
certainty is causing you both much unnecessary unhappiness and 
anxiety.' 

' I can answer for one ! But she ? People always preach that 
long engagements wear out a girl's life.' 

'If you were sixteen and thirteen over again, I should say, 
"Don't!" very decidedly; but having gone so far, I think you 
had best go on. I really believe that not only would an under- 



Chah. 
XXXVIIl. 



VOL. II. 



2 C 



3S6 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXVIIL 



Standing be a great present relief, but that an avowed engagement 
would be a great comfort and protection to her.' 

* ril never let her go back to that drudgery !' cried Will 

* That you must settle with her/ 
' Then I have your sanction?' 

* Yes ; but Fm not your father !' 

' Oh ! he'll be jolly and glad ! He never interferes with any- 
thing in reason ! I wonder how Wilmet will look !' 

* That must be ascertained by experiment We must shut up 
now, Will, or poor Tedo will have another restless night Good- 
night!' 

* Pah ! I should like to go out and halloo !' 

* Write a poem instead, and work off the steam !' said Felix, 
turning down the lamp to get rid of that most unpoetical-looking 
poet 

Will had announced an intention of walking to Penbeacon in 
early morning, and when rallied by Angela on having overslept 
himself, the great audacious slap-dash fellow proved to have 
turned as shy as a girl. He kept on blushing up to the ears, 
looking sheepish, and losing opportunities from sheer awkward- 
ness. If the space had been as small, or Felix as punctilious as 
at John's courtship, the crisis could hardly have come on ; but 
Felix had put off going to Bexley, to see the affair through, and 
was resolved that the mutual infliction of misery should last no 
longer. So finding matters in statu quo at dinner-time, he ordered 
the waggonet, and declaring suddenly that he would protect 
Cherry through the visits she had to return, he packed in three 
sisters, declaring, with a twinkle in his eye, that he knew Bobbie 
wanted to finish her sketch of the church. Clement was gone to 
the far end of the village, and Bernard was fishing, so that the 
coast was dear. 

But the drawing went on in solitude under the cedar for £ 
quarter of an hour ; and when at last a sort of irresolute saunter 
resulted in a big loosely-built personage recUning on the grass at 
the sketcher's feet, a good many more minutes were spent in 
pulling up tufts, while she was too glad to have him ^ere to 
suggest that he was doing the work of a dozen chaffer-grubs. 
Indeed, she soon saw that he was ill at ease, and her painting felt 



K, T. 



3»7 



the influence of his restlessness, which began to alarm her, though 
she durst not disturb it. He might mean to have it out with her 
—he might be composing a poem — to which last opinion she 
inclined when he at length lay prone on his back, his straw hat 
entirely over his face ; and she expected either a heroic utterance, 
or a hksty demand for a pencil and a page of her sketch-book. 
Instead of which, after a deep sigh, came the portentous worids — 
* Double-distilled donkey !' 

* Indeed, I don't think he's quite that I' justice compelled her to 
say, 

* There ! I knew how it would be ! Nothing but an un- 
mitigated idiot could have thought otherwise for a moment !' 

* Thought what ?' said Robina — ^not exactly liking to consider 
the 'unmitigated idiot' meant to apply to herself, the most 
obvious antecedent 

*Why, I was ten thousand asses for coming out here I' 

* Indeed !' 
Something in the tone of that 'indeed' raised him to a sitting 

posture, witii his arms embracing his knees, a resolute and 
deplorable attitude. ' I say, Robina, tell me at once, and put an 
end to it, whether you care for that sprig of nobility 1' 

* I !' she cried, her eyes flashing. * How can you suspect me !' 
and indignation made it sound like — * insult me !' 

* Don't be in such a fury with a poor fellow that has been 
driven nearly to desperation ! ' said William, putting an elbow on 
the chair where her apparatus stood. 

*It was your own fault!' said &obina; she meant it to be 
sternly, but it was softly. * I wanted to explain to you, but you 
never would let me !' 

* I did not know that you — I mean, that I felt that I had no 
right to ask !' 

*0 Willie 1' 

' Robina 1 Robin — dearest I Are you thinking of that evening ? 
— Bah 1 what's this ?' as his start forward upset the chair against 
him. 

*The water I was painting with! Let me wipe it It is 
making a green stream over your face!' at which they both! 
laughed hysterically ; and what Will tried to do to the hands that | 

2 2 



Chap. 
XXXVITL 



38S 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 

xxxvni. 



were drying his face may be inferred from — ^ Now, don't ! Let 
me do it properly ! Be quiet, let me look 1' And as he half sat, 
half knelt, she turned up his great freckled face with her hand 
under his chin. * There's a green drop still in the comer of your 
left eye I Let me take it out' 

' The last drop of the green-eyed monster, I promise yon, 
Robina. Now, don't you know what they always do to good httle 
boys, who have had their faces washed nice and clean ?* 

* But you haven't been a good little boy 1 You were very 
naughty, making me ever so unhappy 1' and, smiling as she was, 
there was a tear not green in her eye. 

* Ah ! You could never have been so wretched as I was ; not 
knowing whether what was my deepest earnest was child's play to 
you, and not daring to ask.' 

* Just like me 1' she whispered 

* And now, is it not like waking out of a horrible dream, or 
getting out of a mist of darkness, to find that we have had one 
another's heart ever — ever since? my Robin — ^mine own — ^mine 
own!' 

* Oh ! indeed it is ! I don't think we quite knew what we were 
doing then, but it has only grown as we have grown older.' 

* And will grow for ever, Robina l' 

* I trust so r 

* Isn't this rest ?* he said presently. 

* After all those worries ! Oh ! I must tell you about Lord 
Ernest !' 

* I don't want to hear a word about Lord Ernest, or Lord Any- 
body 1 Bless me, I forgot ! I was to let the fellow knew if I could 
have him up at the farm ; and in fact I was waiting to know 
whether you wanted him made a man of for you !' and Will laughed 
merrily. * I'd have done my best, Robin !' 

* I do want him made a man of, but not for me,' said Robina, 
stroking his face, by way of reward for a generosity she could not 
speak of. * You'll do it, WiUie r 

* He'll be off with it, now !' 

* Nonsense I that had nothing at all to do with it He had been 
trying to read at home, and it did not answer.' 

* Never doe* T 



K.T. 



389 



* He got bothered, and came to Eweford in a fit of temper. 
The family did not know where he was, and I thought I ought to 
shew him their letters, and let him see how vexed they were. Felix 
said I had better let it alone, and I found after all that Lord Ernest 
had written to his father/ 

* Felix knows about us. How is that ?* 

^ I was uncomfortable at hi^ not knowing. I once tried to tell 
Wilmet, when I was afraid I ought not to keep the md (Tavis ; 
but she said I wsis a silly child, and would not listen.' 

^ How lucky I What a delicious time we had at Barbges I It is 
like a stream of sunshine in my mind. Won't we go there again 
some day ! That would have settled my business, even if there had 
been no summer evening at home. IVe got your sketches up in 
my rooms, and this one will follow them.' 

* If you haven't gone and spoilt it 1 Look 1 There's a great 
dab of blue, that you made me make, half way up the church 
tower.' 

' Make it Clement, in a sky-blue scarlet vestment, pronouncing 
a benediction T 

* For shame, Wilhe ! that's as bad as Angela. Besides, he isn't 
gone up as high as that yet I' 

* Make it a forget-me-not, then T 

* Up there I and as big as the window ?* 

' Make it something 1 I won't have it washed out It marks 
the prime moment of my Ufe — when I came from darkness into 
sunshine. You must come some day and do our Cathedral from 
the meads, and I'll shew you where I cut out our initials and 1861.' 

*NoI did you?* 

' Of course ; and all the more because you would not break a 
sixpence. You will now ?* 

* With all my heart !' 

' I declare I haven't got one now I Only a three-penny bit, 
again.' 

* Here's one 1' said Robina. * Give me the three-penny, and then 
it will be half from each.' 

* That's not the right arrangement,' said Will, as he frowned 
horribly over the difficulty of dividing the coin. ' I say, I'll get you 
a ring to morrow, though it won't be such a one as Jack's.' 



Chap. 
XXXVIII 



i90 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXVIII. 



* No, it will be much better !* said Robina, taking the scissors at 
her chatelaine, (from a Repworth Christmas-tree,) and snipping a 
lock from his head, while he was still struggling with the sixpence. 
* There, I shall make that into a ring ! Yes it is the only one I 
will have — ^the only gold I care for.' 

' If you call that gold, it is decisive,' said Will, laughing, as she 
twined die ruddy thing in her fingers. * You must have something 
to set it in ?* 

* Yes ; I must wait till the chestnut horse comes home, for a few 
hairs of his mane for a foundation — ^black would shew through.' 

Bill protested in favour of * a real one,' but without much effect 
Was not the sixpence yielding at last? and had she not that 
precious bird's-nest, which she had not dared to wear during his 
displeasure, unwitting that this grieved him the more ? They were 
very earnest over the old-fashioned ceremony of the sixpence ; they 
soratched a W and an R on each moiety, and made a hole, and 
Robina undertook the finding a cord for each. It was playfully 
done, but with great depth beneath. 

* It has been the homely token of a great deal of simple trust f 
said Will 

* And I am sure we are poor enough!' added Robina. 

* But you will never go back to that abominable harness ?* 

* Indeed I must ! No, Will ! Cannot you see how wrong and 
foolish it would be to be living on Felix, with nothing to do, and no 
one wanting me ?' 

* No one ^ 

. * Cherry is all the world to Felix, and teaches Stella. Angela 
takes the parish work ; and it would be a sin and shame to waste 
my education in dawdling here. Even dear old Lancey is too 
much taken up with his music to want me to keep house for him. 
I should only be in his way ; and I do not want to enter on aU 
the questions about society there !' 

* No j Bexley would not do for you T 

'And when I am getting one hundred pounds now, and am to 
have one hundred and fifty after Christmas, when Miss Oswald 
goes, would it not be sheer waste and laziness to come and prey 
on Felix, when I might be earning a nice little nest-egg to furnish 
our house with Y 



K, T. 



39t 



* That's to coax me ; but I can't stand your working for me f 

* I might as well say I can't stand your working for me, you 
lilly fellow 1* You don't see me crying at your keeping pupils at 
Penbeacon.' 

* Yes, but I'm the right one !' 

' I declare you've been learning of my godmothers, who say it 
is unworthy of a man to let his womankind work. A regular 
Mahometan notion, isn't it ? And I shall get my holidays when- 
ever you are available. Don't you see ? 

* I see it exactly in Miss Hepburn's hght Men must work 1' 

* And women weep 1 Eh ? I've no intention of weeping ! I 
much prefer working, and I do no more than is wholesome for 
any person's well-being. I believe it is Green-eyes again ?* 

* No ; I'm not afraid of you, my own, own steady-hearted Bird ! 
I never would have been, had I known whether you viewed that 
evening walk as play or earnest. I've done with that sort of 
trouble ; but I should like to lift you out of all the drudgery of 
work-a-day life, and give you all that heart could wish !' 

' The heart of a bird of paradise !' said she, looking into his 
face ; * the heart of a robin red-breast gets much nearer what it 
wishes when it is working — ^working for you, you know! Ayl 
that's so sweet, that you want to get it all for yourself !' 

* My sweetest Bird 1 before you have talked me quite out of my 
senses, with your poetical way of putting it, let me say that you 
and I don't work on equal terms. There's the rub !' 

* Oh ! You're ashamed of the governess T 

* No indeed, dearest ; but that you — ^you — equal to any in birth 
— should be in an inferior position !' 

^ Lord Eamestlypoor !' announced Amelia, in one single word, as 
she advanced on them from the house, with the gentleman follow- 
ing. ' He asked for Mr. Harewood.' 

Up they sprung, holding out their hands. 

' I thought I might walk over for my answer,' he said, with a 
sense of interrupting something. 

William gave a conscious laugh. * I'm afraid I've not been up 
to Penbeacon yet' 

*I think,' said Robina, rallying her powers, *we had better 
make our avowal at once. Lord Ernest, we want your con- 



Chap. 
XXXVIII. 



392 



THE PILLARS. OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXVIII. 



gratulations. We have been engaged this long time, and my 
eldest brother has just given us leave to make it known.' 

Good breeding and self-command might perhaps be what 
prevented all sign of aught but frank friendliness. * Indeed ! I 
wish you joy with all my heart Does Grace know ?* 

* I am going to write to Grace.' 

* She will be very unselfish if she rejoices.' 

' I don't think it will make any difference for some time to 
come,' said Robina. 

* You see,' said Will, ' we neither of us have anything ; and she 
will have it that she is so happy among your sisters, that it is no 
hardship to go on as she is.' 

* My mother will say that it is as great a compliment as ever 
she received. — ^Well, Harewood ! when you can think of such 
sublunary matters as pupils, will you let me know? I wouldn't 
have interrupted you, but I had no notion anything so interesting 
was going on 1' 

He was so genuinely simple and hearty, that Will was impelled 
to try whether he still wished to be his pupil, by asking whether he 
would object to sleeping at a cottage. * Not in the least !' he said, 
* it would be rather jolly ! All I want is for you to work me up. 
I feel more bound than ever not to come to grief, now they have 
let me take my way,' he added, with frankness satisfactory to both. 

Will entered into particulars of the accommodations, and 
Robina interppsed warnings against; his statements till verified by 
her sister's inspection. These two were really lovers of too long 
standing to be overwhelmingly engrossed, but were rather like 
beings lightened of a heavy load of suspense; and when the 
question between the two gentlemen began as to the books he 
should write for from home, he diversified it by saying to Robina 
— * I broug}it my father's letter. Would you like to see it P' 

Probably he had meant to read selections, and gave it to her 
only because this was impossible, and he really wanted to justify 
his recent words. 

Lord de la Poer fiilfiUed the assertion that he would not be 
displeased with his son's independence, provided he should 
persevere in exertion. There was a kindly expressed but not the 
less real warning, that the examination at Oxford would be the 



K. t: 



393 



test whether this were a manly spirit or mere restive impatience. 
Full permission to read with Mr. Harewood, or any one he pre- 
ferred, was given. Mr. Crichton had perceived that the system of 
study at home did not answer. ' Wher. the class-list comes out,* 
wrote the Marquess, * it will be time to consider of the future ; 
but I promise that you shall not find yourself withheld from any 
suitable course, by any wishes that may have been prematurely 
expressed. That whole subject may be considered as closed. If 
your present plans are inspired by any other views, I trust to your 
treating me with confidence.' 

That was the only sentence in which any suspicion could be 
detected. How Robina rejoiced that Felix had prevented the 
confession that would have been so ridiculous now ! Of Lady 
Caergwent there was not a word. If Lord de la Poer knew of 
any grief at the defection, he regarded himself as in honour bound 
not to betray her. 

Robina was waiting to restore the letter for a pause in the 
discussion of Greek plays and moral philosophy, which was the 
prelude to the licking into shape, though in externals the tutor 
looked by far the most in need of the process, when Amelia made 
another incursion, and this time announced, * Miss Hepburn' — 
who proved to be two of the sisters — ^Bridget and Isabella ; but 
introductions not being the prevaiUng custom at Repworth Towers, 
Robina did not feel called on to make any, and indeed William 
had been at Vale Leston as long as she had. But they had never 
met face to face before, and the ladies resented the omission, 
returned the bows stiffly, and when she said, * My sisters are gone 
out to make morning visits,' the answer was, * Yes, my sister 
Martha saw them, and we thought you would be alone.' 

' Thank you. Will you come into the drawing-room, or do you 
like sitting out-of-doors ? — ^Willie, please ring, and ask for some tea.' 

* No, thank you ! We will not disturb you. We did not know 
you were engaged I' 

Will took the word technically, and started ; Lord Ernest kept 
his countenance with difficulty ; but Robina had sense enough- to 
understand, and say, * I only stayed at home to finish a sketch. 
These afternoon lights and shades are particularly becoming to 
the church,' And Lord Eifnest, bringing some chairs to the 



Chap. 
XXXVIIL 



394 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXVIII. 



rescue, applied himself with reddy courtesy to make talk, though 
praise of the choir was hardly a happy subject to start He did 
his best with Miss Isabella, while Robina faltered through ten 
minutes of cold commonplace with Miss Bridget 

About a quarter of an hour later, Major Harewood, who was 
working out the problem whether prudence would allow him to 
exchange military engineering for high farming as the Squire's 
agent, looked up at the sight of his wife in hat and parasoL 

* Are you going out, my dear? Is it not too hot ?* 

* Only to the Priory.' 

* There's nobody at home. Kit saw " Uncle Fee " and all the 
aunties going out in the carriage.' 

* Not Robina. Miss Isabella Hepburn has just been here, to 
warn me that she found her sitting on the lawn, alone with two 
young men T 

* Bernard and Theodore ?* 

* No, no ; of course she knows them by sight I shall go down. 
I expect it is that young De la Poer ; and either Robin does not 
know how to get rid of him, and will be glad to see me, or else 
she ought to be !* 

* Those are the ladies that are said to have but one tooth,' said 
John, taking up hat and stick. 

' There's no need to disturb you. Only I feel it the more ex- 
pedient to be near. I am much vexed at this beginning. I never 
expected it from Robina. She is worse than Angel !* 

* Poor Robin ! There's been something amiss with her all the 
week, as well as with Bill. I wonder if there is anything in the 
Bailey joke about them ?* 

* Most certainly not,' said Wilmet ; * I am much more afraid of 
the. other thing. I always thought her choosing to stay at 
Repworth suspicious !' 

* I don't believe it ! I saw them come up after she had been 
lost at Ewmouth, as innocent as lambs ! Her manner was per- 
fectly simple and natural.* 

* I don't understand Robina's manner,* said Wilmet 
Walking down the hilly slope of the path, they presently were 

aware of a pair with arms and hands doubly interlaced, in the 
fashion peculiar to the circumstances. 



K, T, 



395 



' John r 

* Wilmet I Was there never a blackberry lane in our lives ? 

* Not without — Robina !' 

They turned, but without confusion, without loosing of arms, or 
if Robina had attempted it, it was checked. 

* Oh ! there you are, John !' exclaimed Will * So you see we 
have settled it at last T 

* I do not know what you mean,* said Wilmet, gravely. 

* O Wilmet !' said Robina. * I told you all about it, long ago, 
at Bareges.' 

* If you consider that as any intimation — * she began ; but her 
husband interrupted her. * I suppose Felix has yet to hear this Y 

* Oh no !' both cried ; Will adding, * Felix created this vast 
solitude on our behalf!' 

* Your father Y added Wilmet 

* He went away a day too soon ; but there's no fear of him, is 
there, Jack?* 

* You all seem to me demented !' said Wilmet aghast 

* Nay, Mettie, if you knew it at Barbges, you can't say a word 1' 
said John, much amused. 

* Always sending us up the mountains together!' added Will 

* No one ever gave me such a happy time of it 1' 

* Giving me leave to keep the brooch 1' continued Robina, 
chiming in with their humour. 

' Why, 'tis your doing,' summed up the Major j * and I trust 
it is a good work for both !' he gravely proceeded. * I wish you 
joy, with all my heart, though I fear I must wish you patience too ! 

* And prudence 1' put in Wilmet, but softening into sweetness. 

* Dear Robin — dear Willie — don't think I don't care 1 as she gave 
a sisterly kiss to each. * It is because I do care so very much for 
both that I am anxious !' 

' Anxiety was your meat and drink so early in life that you can't 
shake it off now !' said John, affectionately ; *and Harewood as I 
am, I should share it with you, if I didn't know that Bill's choice 
much resembles her elder sister !' 

* You may say that 1' observed Will. * "^Vhy, she wants to go on 
in harness at Repworth !' 

* That is wise !' responded Wilmet 



Chap. 
XXXVUI. 



396 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXVIII. 



* But, halloo !' cried John, *did your friend see double, Mettie? 
— or what have you done with your other young man, Robina ?' 

* Walked him to the little gate ! He came to settle about reading 
with Willie/ 

* I say !' cried William, laughing, *did the Graise go and send 
Wilmet to put on her Gorgon*s head, and charge down on us ? I 
thought they were looking as sour as verjuice V 

* You see/ proceeded Wilmet, * we must all be careful ! It won't 
do to fancy one can do anything in the country. These old ladies 
don't do it out of ill-nature, like Lady Price, but they are almost 
worse r 

' However, Mettie, as these poor things have been subjected 
already to one Oxonian and two hags, 1 think you and I had 
better relieve them of our presence, and let them finish their walk 
in peace.' 

Putting things together, Robina thought she had not wholly 
escaped doubt at Repworth, for she received no letter between 
the inquiry into the KT case, and the answers to her own commu- 
nication, and these so overflowed with aflfection and cordiality, as to 
suggest that they were a reaction. Lady de la Poer wrote warai 
congratulations, and spoke of her eldest son's high opinion of Mr. 
Harewood; she was rejoiced at Miss Underwood's decision to 
return to her post, and she gave* a few words of thanks for the 
explanation about the children's chatter: ^ Susie has been well 
lectured on Russian scandal 1' was her conclusion. 

Lady Grace was rapturous enough to tiiink she had seen the 
future dawning at the station. Poor Grace ! she certainly was 
rather gushing, and probably it was the contrast that made her so 
devoted to the staid Robina. She let out that she was ' so glad to 
write again. Mamma had advised her not, for fear of more mis- 
understandings, till it was settled about Ernest ; and now he must 
bring Mr. Harewood to Repworth for her to see. As to Elate, she 
was still at the Towers ; t^e Wardours had the small-pox in their 
parish, and could not have ner.* Grace had evidently been put 
under some reserve as to the Countess ; but there was a note from 
herself — quaint and hearty, like all she did, and with a little sad- 
ness in it. There was no such intimacy as to render it necessary, 
and Robina interpreted the writing of it to mean that there 



K.T. 



397 



had once been bitter feelings towards her, and that this was their 
recall. 

My dear Miss Underwood, 

Grade tells me you have been well employed, I heartily wish you 
joy. A university tutor seems to me as mighty a power of influence as any in 
existence, but I suppose it is your mission to spoil him for that. Lucky girl 
that you are, to have work and brothers and all ! You don't know how much 
it saves you from. One brother is all I would have asked, if only to prevent 
me from signing myself, 

Yours affectionately, 

Caergwent. 

The secret history must evidently wait for Robina's return, and 
before that there was a great deal ot conscientious hard work at 
Penbeacon, the tutor resolutely refraining from walks to Vale 
Leston, except when, on Sunday, he and his whole party marched 
down to what he called * prayers and provender,' at Vale Leston. 
Also there was one, only one, picnic given by the Penbeaconites 
to the Vale Lestonites, during the week when the Squire inexorably 
went to Bexley, and sent Lance to be the merriest of the merry on 
the last of August, and to make acquaintance with the hares and 
partridges on the ist of September. 

At the end of that week, in the early charms of September, with 
the sheaves glorif)ring the fields, the fruit glowing on the trees, the 
pears drooping in russet drops, the apples piled in red and golden 
heaps, the geraniums and verbenas flaming on the lawn, 
Felix brought Mr. and Mrs. Froggatt, for what was probably as 
happy and exultant a visit as ever they paid in their joint lives. 
To see Felix in his glory was almost as much to them as if he had 
been their own child, and they were intimate enough to make it 
possible to provide for their entertainment perfectly to their satis- 
faction. The home-farm, which was to be let to Major Harewood, 
with a tariff for the articles needed for family consumption, afforded 
Mrs. Froggatt great amusement in studying chickens and ducks ; 
and the agent's house, a pretty cottage on the opposite bank, was 
being improved at John's expense, so as to be ready for occupation 
as soon as he could effect his retirement and break up from 
Woolwich ; and every one knows the resource house-building is to 
the leisurely holiday-maker. Indeed, Mr. Froggatt wanted nothing 
but his book and newspaper, and a little talk and garden fancying ; 



Chap. 
XXXVIII 



398 



THE PILLARS' OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXVIII. 



and the petting Cherry and Stella gave hun. The tender reverent 
affection all the young people . shewed to both, as to their true 
friends and benefactors, wanned their hearts. 

One state-dinner — in spite of his disavowal of dinner visiting- 
Felix had always resolved to give, chiefly for the sake of the satis- 
faction he knew Mrs. Froggatt would for ever feel in it He had 
to pick the other guests, but he secured a sufficiency. Dr. May 
had promised himself and his two daughters. Of Mrs. Staples 
Cherry was afraid, but Mr. Staples came, and Mr. and Mrs. Welsh, 
which was the more amiable in him because there had been a time 
in his life when Mr. and Mrs. Froggatt would have been far above 
him. Lord Ernest came down from Penbeacon, and thus, with 
the Harewoods and the large home-party, the numbers were quite 
imposing ; especially with the display of all the plate, champagne, 
ices, Krishnu, and even Cherry's abomination, a hired waiter in 
white gloves ! 

It was not thrown away. Mrs. Froggatt was indeed a little 
awed in the Bismarck brocade and blonde cap she would have been 
so sorry not to have aired ; but Dr. May found the way to her 
heart, even before dinner, by admiring the testimonial inkstand 
which adorned the drawing-room writing-table, and its story and 
all it led to lasted more than half through dinner, and Gertrude 
caught echoes even while fraternizing with Major Harewood over 
her brother in the engineers. After dinner, good-natured little 
Mrs. Welsh, to the manner trained, took to entertaining the old 
lady, and though the style was too electioneering for Cherry's taste, 
it suited the purpose exactly, and made Mrs. Froggatt pronounce 
her a very pretty and affable young lady. 

Even if there had been less enjoyment at the time, that dinner- 
party would have been one of the chief events of Mrs. Froggatt*s life. 
She never wearied of dilating on it to all the friends who called on 
her, on her return. * She should have thought it a privilege only 
to see that dear young gentleman in his proper sphere; but for 
him to treat the old people as he might any lord in the land, and 
shew himself as attentive, as filial, she miight say, as if he stiU had 
his bread to earn !' and there she always began to cry. 

' One effect your dinner-party has had,' wrote Lance to Cheny, 
' it has wholly destroyed the small remains of Madame Tanneguy's 



FOUR YEARS. 



399 



peace of mind. What she does not believe of the glories of the 
Priory it would be hard to say. She angled full two half-hours for 
an invitation last time the Squire was here, between her affection for 
you — and then poor little AchiUe's health. And the effect upon 
that stony-hearted old Giant was, that he sent two ten-pound notes 
to Miss Pearson, with a request to take lodgings for her and the 
children at Dearport for a month. Wherewith Miss Pearson trotted 
confidentially to me, to assure me that she could not use them, 
since nothing on earth ailed Achille. I advised her to keep and 
apply them ; for not only do I know he would not take them back, 
but it is no bad form of intimating that she may change to any air 
save Vale Leston. And the absurd part of it is, that the more she 
aspires, the more poor Lamb casts his hopeless sheep's-eyes at her T 



CHAPTER XXXIX. 



FOUR YEARS. 

• Yet there are some resting-places, 
Life's untroubled interludes ; 
Times When neither past nor future 
On the soul's deep calm intrudes.' 

'Jean Ingelow, 

That Penbeacon pic-nic became an institution, and was one of 
the pleasantest annual events in what were on the whole very 
happy years. 

Care, exertion, and self-denial, were indeed still needful ; but the 
two latter were perhaps ingredients of happiness, and care would 
not have been avoided if the Underwood view of duty had been 
the world's views of what became Vale Leston Priory. A strenuous 
endeavour to keep up appearances, and compete with grand neigh- 
bours on an uncertain three thousand a year, would probably have 
been more wearing than living on twelve hundred — partly earned 
by honest labour — and inproving the cottages, planting a school- 
chapel at Blackstone GuUey, hiring a house for the purpose at 
East Ewmouth, and restoring the church by degrees. 

As for exertion, to be an Underwood of the late type would have 
been harder work to Felix than his hours of Pursuivant or days at 



Chap. 
XXXVIII. 



40CJ 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXIX. 



the office, though in truth the labour was sometimes considerable. 
It was not immediately that the two young men at Bexley could 
get on without constant aid and superintendence in the business : 
he was always the working editor ; besides which, he was already 
important at Bexley, and soon was found too good a man of 
business not to have a good deal of county administration devolved 
upon him. Trade and public affairs did so far clash as to be a 
strain, but not more than was compensated by sense of usefulness 
and consideration, and giving zest to the delightful snatches of 
leisure in his lovely and cheerful home. 

Self-denial? Felix and Geraldine would have disputed that 
They had grown up to a style that made simple plenty and moderate 
ease luxurious, and superfluities never even suggested themselves 
as needs. Perhaps the lack they were most concerned about was 
inability to * keep up the place ' in the trim and dainty order it 
seemed to call for. The smoothness of the grass in the park was 
dependent on the convenience of John Harewood's dairy farm ; 
and though the garden between the house and river was always in 
beautiful order, in the shrubberies there was a .fine struggle of 
natural selection ; the kitchen-gardens were made to pay their way, 
and the ranges of conservatories were cold and empty, except one 
necessary refuge for tenderer plants, and one maintained at Clement's 
expense for Church-decorating flowers. Golightly was greatly dis- 
tressed at having no underlings but one old woman, one small boy, 
and half the man who looked after the horse and pony, or sometimes 
— ^what was worse than none — some subject to whom the Vicar was 
applying the labour-test The worthy gardener truly represented 
that three men was the minimum for such grounds, and gave warning 
when he found that justice could not be done them ; but after Felix 
had found him a much superior place, he declined ; he could not find 
it in his heart to leave the place to an untrained labourer, who 
would not even know how to help devastating it This sense of 
what was the garden's due caused him to bestow an immehse 
amount of personal toil on it j for indeed it was observable that 
whoever worked for Felix always did so with a will, stimulated no 
doubt by the master's example, as well as by his hearty appreciation 
and acknowledgment of good service. In this there was moch 
real economy. 



FOUR YEARS. 



401 



The farm did well in the hands of Major Harewood, who had 
adapted the agent's house to his own needs. It was just on the 
other side of the river and road; and a boat, commonly called 
* Lord Ullin's Daughter/ brought it within five minutes' reach, 
going round by the bridge taking about three times that interval. 
The land was chiefly rich pasture ; and John was growing learned 
in short-horns, and Wilmet upon butter and cheese, while Clement's 
wish was realized by a parish cow. 

The calculations as to the scale of living were justified by the 
result. Lighter household tasks were natural to the young ladies. 
They kept tiieir own rooms in order, dusted the books and ornaments, 
took care of the household hnen, and performed delicate cookeries, 
so as to keep down the number of needful servants ; and the 
occasions were few and far between when their hospitality extended 
beyond the addition of a few guests at their ordinary meals, or a 
garden-party, with its pretty and inexpensive refections. 

People who restored their church and built schools, without 
begging for subscriptions either directly or through a bazaar, but 
continued in trade, and cut oflF superfluous luxuries — servants, 
horses, and dinner-parties — were a fertile subject for wonder and 
gossip in the neighbourhood. Society growled, contemned, and 
remonstrated, by the mouth of Mrs. Fulbert Underwood, and the 
defence of her misguided family was a heavy charge to Wilmet for 
the first year ; but no one worth caring about really took umbrage, 
and after a fime people accepted them on their own terms. A 
beautifiil. lawn, full of sprightly youth, of looks, spirits, and talents, 
above the average, could not fail to be popular, and an old county 
name went for something. 

Cherry was proof against dinner-parties. Health was no longer 
an objection, for either Vale Leston had the virtues of native air, 
or the Bexley potteries had merited Alda's vituperation, for Chenys 
ailments were more rare, and she had much advanced in strength 
and vigour. Felix declared she was growing quite handsome ; and 
he, though not exactly the ideal squire, had acquired much more of 
the robustness of manhood, and had lost the appearance of fragility 
he had shewn in earlier years, though he retained the fair youthfiil 
complexion which sometimes made people hardly credit that his 
tens were three. He sometimes dined out alone; but Cherry 

VOL. II. 2D 



Chap. 
XXXIX. 



402 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXIX. 



considered dress and reciprocity to settle the question of abstinence 
for her. Angela was, however, so wild about Ewmouth balls, that 
John victimized himself and his wife rather than create a grievance, 
but even his tolerance was sorely taxed. 

Was the blame to be laid on prosperity for the difficulty of 
dealing with the two standing anxieties — ^Angela and Bernard? 
They had not been the most docile subjects in the days of com- 
parative poverty, and their heads were certainly turned now. 
Bernard could not be convinced that expensiveness was not the 
proof of being a gentleman, and in three years at Harrow cost his 
brother more than Clement, Fulbert, and Lancelot, all put together, 
in their whole nonage, had ever done, besides the scrapes that 
Lance helped him out of. He had no sympathy with Felix's 
purpose in economy; not that he had reflection enough for a 
sceptical habit of mind like Edgar's, but he considered it a hard- 
ship that the whole family should be stinted and impoverished for 
what he was pleased to term Tina's maggots ; nor could anything 
persuade him that he himself was no richer than before, and 
equally dependent on his brother's bounty. There was no positive 
harm in him, but as genius and taste alike lay in the line of cricket, 
he cared not for distinction of other kinds, but was content to 
scrape through the school without disgrace. His farther destiny 
was a moot point, while he scorned cheap colleges and halls, and 
Felix insisted that a distinguished one was only to be attained 
through a scholarship. 

Angela was a greater puzzle. She was still much what she had 
been in childhood, alternating between the fast and the devotional 
She was Clement's right hand in the parish, in the schools, Sunday, 
day, or night, and with even more than Wilmet's nursing instinct, 
die prime doctress of the village, and enjo)dng the cure of a 
broken chilblain as much as a waltz. To take a medical degree 
had become her ambition in turns with the dukedom, the opera, 
and the Sisterhood. Therewith she was the most saucy and idle 
of creatures. With less regular good looks than most of the feunily, 
she was more sought after. Figure did much, the hop-pole had 
become lithe and graceful, and her dress was always becoming, as 
well it might be, for her bills were never within bounds. She said 
she could not help it, and certainly her adventurous nature and 



FOUR YEARS. 



403 



rapid movements occasioned numerous catastrophes to her ward- 
robe, though not enough to account for the discrepancy between 
her accounts and her sisters'. Her charm lay in droll dash and 
audacity, and the irresistible glance of her eyes. Even Christopher 
and his little brother Edward preferred her to all their other aunts 
— the night-school was gathered by her as to a magnet, and better 
than all the Vicar's arguments and the Squire's influence had her 
coaxing prevailed to get the choir into surplices. She was by far 
the most/ormidable as well as the most unscrupulous adversary of 
the poor Miss Hepbums, who viewed her with pious pity and 
horror as the natural outcome of the system they deprecated. 
Indeed, whether she were Clement's greatest* help or hindrance 
was doubtful He could not have a friend to stay with him, or 
obtain the assistance of a curate, without furnishing prey for Angela. 
Fred Somers, after a six weeks' visit, went back to St Matthew's 
with his peace upset, and an understanding that the two friends 
must never meet again in the haunts of that dangerous siren. A 
few more such experiments convinced the Vicar that unless he 
wished the village girls to remark that ' Miss Angel was carrying 
on with another young man,' he must do all the work himself; 
and his present amount of services, Sunday and weekly, at the 
parish church, and Blackstone GuUey, were quite up to the mark 
of any one man's powers, besides his attempts at East Ewmouth. 
Here Felix had no property, and therefore could not check the 
eruption of small tenements, which broke forth on some fresh fiekl 
every spring, ccmtaining independent, often surly inhabitants, 
always changing, and rapidly outrunning the powers of the un- 
daunted young Vicar. The two parishes were so entangled that 
the difficulties as to territory were endless, and the endeavour at a 
week-4ay service was not encouraged or assisted by the incumbent 
of the nearest district, who feared Clement's * views,' and had been 
staggered by Angela's ostentation of them. 

Angela was the greater heartache to Clement, because she had 
been trained in the same system with himself, and was inclined to 
carry it to lengths that even he thought extravagant. There might 
have been some disadvantage in his inexperience when she came 
into his hands for direction only at the end of his first year of 
priesthood, and he would fain have kept her in Mr. Fulmort's 

2 D 2 



Chap. 
XXXIX. 



<04 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXIX. 



keeping ; but difficulties had prevented his insistance, and this he 
increasingly regretted. For in spite of all his efforts, his relations 
with her were lapsing into what he had always scouted as the 
popular notion of confession. It was technical, as far as he could 
see devoid of repentance. Angela contrived to separate the brother 
and the priest; she would go through any formula, accept any 
discipline, but mechanically j but she would not endure exhortation, 
and if he ever attempted to check her boisterous spirits, she 
scouted him as Tina. Sometimes he wondered whether she sought 
him only because the practice belonged to what she called an 
* out-and-outer,* and Felix retained doubts of its universal ex- 
pediency. 

Did Angela suppress Stella? Never were sisters less alike. 
Princess Fair Star, as the brothers called her, was still very small, 
with a lovely Httle face, tinted like fine porcelain, an4 hair and 
eyes more deeply coloured than those of most of the family ; hair 
still snooded and in shining curls, and pensive eyes shining with a 
lustre of their own. She was the help and handmaid of the whole 
house, especially of Geraldine, with whom she still did regular 
lessons ; and she was very diligent in all her doings, turning out 
her handiwork with delicate finish ; but he was not enterprising, 
the very pains she took rendering her slow to undertake, though 
she spent much time in finishing Angela's odds and ends. She 
still continued the family lexicon, for even if she could not answer 
a query off-hand, she could always hunt it down, and the reply was 
generally ready in the soft low musical voice. Her laugh was 
noiseless and not frequent, for though never fretful nor depressed, 
she was only gently merry, pensively gay ; and though now and 
then a quaint remark would drop into the whirl of family fun— 
and she was no inconsiderable element in games — she was always 
as happy, if not happier, in the garden or the woods with Theodore, 
their pets and flowers. She was devoted to the garden, its trimness 
was in great part owing to her; and as Golightly said, 'The 
bookets for the *ouse was Miss Stella's province, and them for the 
church Miss Hangela's i and of live-stock the twin.^ tended a 
curious variety — ^rabbits, doves, cats, dogs, canaries, dormice, and 
owls, besides wounded creatures, rescued, cured, and released 
Stella's quietness was a great ingredient in taming them; Johc 



FOUR YEARS, 



405 



Harewood called her the only feminine creature devoid of pro- 
pensity for making a noise, and Felix, their silent Star 

* Up above the world so high, 
Like a diamond in the sky.' 

Sometimes she would talk freely to Geraldine on any unusual 
excitement, but if she conversed with any one else, it was with 
Theodore. No one who watched the pair could doubt that they 
had more mutual understanding than the boy had with any other 
person — even Felix, for whom his love was hke a dog's devotion 
to his master. The out-of-door life and country air had been 
beneficial both to mind and body, and Theodore was much 
healthier and stronger, made progress in the little that he could 
be taught ; could utter a few words, comprehended more than he 
could pronounce, and improved in self-control. His conscience 
was developing in some degree, and his delight in the Church 
services and music less unintelligent 

Perhaps Stella was content to be the longer a child because 
each advance into life was fiirther away from Theodore ; and she 
had never yet shed such sorrowful tears as when Clement decided 
against presenting him for Confirmation, in the inability to trace 
whether the comprehension that Stella maintained, and Felix 
believed,* were not an illusion of their loving imagination. 

Yet strangely enough, Theodore was confirmed after alL He 
was as usual among the choir-boys, walking in procession with 
them, and materially aiding them by his perfectly true though 
wordless chant His nearest companions were candidates, and he 
moved instinctively with them to the step ; nor had either brother 
the heart to interfere as they saw him kneeling — ^for though he 
could not renew the vow, why might he not receive the Seal? 
The tickets had been previously taken, so there was no obstacle ; 
and when explanation and apology were afterwards made, they 
were met with encouragement not to debar the innocent from his 
Christian privileges because of his lack of power of expression. 

Indeed, the Bishop, who had been dismayed at the institution 
to the family living of another Underwood, and he such a young 
one, was not a little gratified and surprised at the changes he 
found going on in Vale Leston — no longer one of the dark 



Chap. 
XXXIX. 



4c6 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXIX. 



' hopeless spots of his diocese, though of course the work, both 
moral and material, was gradual. Felix had done nothing in 
advance of the means that the great tithes brought into his hands, 
and had begun with the needful repairs of the cottages on the 
Rectory property, and the crying needs of Blackstone Gulley ; but 
the Church restoration was gradually going on — the Vicar, Marilda, 
and John Harewood, all claimed a right to assist, and another 
year or two of the great tithes would accomplish the full detail of 
the plan of restoration he had set out with. 

Meantime he had made many real friends. The one whom he 
had reckoned had, however, been disappointing. Captain Audley 
had exerted himself to leave his cards, but when he had 
reason to believe no one at home. He was friendly when he 
encountered Felix, and sometimes on the spur of the moment 
asked him to dinner ; but the ladies he ignored, except that once 
when Cherry and' Angel were driving past his house in a shower, 
he rushed out and offered an umbrella. 

His son, however, soon haunted the Priory, as affording all that 
home lacked. He was a nice lively lad, dark and brisk, and not 
the less welcome because there was much to recall the Charles 
Audley who was striving to bring light to the * black fellows * of 
Carrigaboola, He was avowedly Bernard's friend, but he was 
regularly tame about the house, walking in at all times during his 
vacations, in a way that could not be grudged to one whose home 
was so dull. Certainly it was a pleasant house to young men ; 
Wilmet sometimes murmured a little when all Will Harewood's 
pupils appeared there at luncheon every Sunday of the stay at 
Penbeacon ; and the old ones invariably turned up again, especialiy 
Lord Ernest, who had taken a second class and got into a 
government office, and yet always managed to appear at each 
Penbeacon pic-nic. 

The first shadow which came upon Vale Leston was good Mr. 
Froggatt's death, a grief really deep to those who owed so much 
to his kindness. It was a touching thing to see the four fine 
young men, who looked on liim like a kinsman, gathered round 
his grave. Felix and Lance were far more to the widow than her 
own nephews ; and when married nieces wanted to take her home, 
and single ones to live with her, she — not without misgivings as to 



FOUR YEARS. 



40> 



the nature of the attraction — declined all, preferring to face her 
solitude at Marshlands, in the security that dear Mr. Lancelot 
would walk out to see her once or twice a week, and that still 
dearer Mr. Underwood would come out whenever he could. 

It ended in Lance doing more than this. He had been a 
partner ever since he had come to years of discretion, and now 
found himself the legatee of all Mr. Froggatt's remaining interest in 
Pursuivant or business. Ernest Lamb had lately lost his father, 
and having come into possession of a slender capital, was in 
condition to become one of the house, as indeed he was excellent 
in whatever regarded the trade, though incapable of more thaA the 
most mechanical newspaper work. 

The new arrangement of Underwood and Co. had hardly been 
made than the world was electrified by the announcement of Mr. 
Lamb's engagement That Madame Tanneguy had been adored 
by him ever since her arrival was known to all ; but hitherto she 
bad only vouchsafed a distracting smile at long intervals^ and had 
laughed at him with her intimates. Her opportunities were not 
extensive, but she was as pretty as ever; and she turned the 
heads of one or two brothers of her pupils, had at one time a 
promising little flirtation with a sentimental young partner of Mr. 
Rugg's, and never ceased to dream of an invitation to Vale Leston, 
which she was quite, sure Geraldine alone withheld poor Mr. 
Underwood from giving. But Gustavus and Achilles were 
growing rather big for inmates of a young ladies' school, Madame 
Tanneguy was weary of the drudgery, and no such positive release 
as Ernest Lamb offered had come in her way. His mother's 
opposition could be set aside, between coaxing and unwillingness 
to quarrel ; and though he was some years the younger, he did 
not look it, nor could there be any doubt that he would be the 
best of husbands, and a kind and conscientious father to the boys ; 
and the aunts, though drawing up their necks a little when they 
spoke of it in private, could not deny that it was a subject of 
thankfulness— making their future retirement come within the 
bounds of possibility. 

* Guess the proposal I have had,' quoth Felix, when next he 
returned from Bexley, and Cherry drove to meet him at the 
station with the pony she had named Master Ratton, in that sort 



Chap. 
XXXIX. 



4o8 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXIX. 



of tender defiance of painful association found in those who own 
an exile. 

* Eh I You don't look humbly cock-a-hoop, so I gather it was 
not to stand for tlie borough.' 

* Why don't you say the county at once ? No, it was of a less 
public nature.' 

* Oh, then, I know I To give up the house to the happy pair. 
What ? You don't mean that it really was ? That beats every- 
thing I' 

* Well — ^it is undeniable that those are large quarters for Lance, 
his cat, and his fiddle.' 

* I do believe you have been and gone and consented ! Well?* 
with a sigh, as if she did not know what might come next 

* As it was purely out of consideration for Lance, I referred it 
to him.' 

* Oh I it was all for Lance's sake — ^was it ?' 

* Entirely!' 

There was a dryness in the last two replies, that pacified Cherry 
a little. 

* How Serious Mutton must be translated, to have the fjxe^ — ' 

* He hadn't !' 
*What? Alice did?' 

* Yes. I believe that he had refused ; but, you see, when 
Lance's comfort was at stake, she was not to be withholden by a 
scruple or two.' 

* Come — tell me how she managed it Did she write ?' 

* No ; she chose her time. Lance was gone to that Minster- 
ham affair, reporting — Lamb out of the way?— when I heard a 
playful sort of Httle tap at the office door, and there she stood, 
smiling and blushing.' 

* Blushing ! ! !' 

* I'll not insist, but so it appeared to me. I assure you she dia 
the thing to perfection — smiled and hesitated, and said she 
thought it was a pity to let mauvaise honte stand in the way of 
what would be so much better for Lance and all of us.' 

* What, she wanted to have the house and do for him?' 

* As one of the family!' then, taking no notice of Cherry's 
^ Faugh !' he went on, ' It was curious to look at her as she sat 



FOUR YEARS. 



405 



there, and think of the difference she was able to make ; yet in 
many ways she is superior to what she was then, and certainly 
prettier ; but I own that my feelings for her then seem an un- 
acountable infatuation. 

* Accountable only because you never spoke to anyone else, and 
did not rave about the customers, like Lance. I am glad you 
were in triple brass, though — and I can't help enjoying her having 
come to sue for the shop tliat she used to despise/ 

*Fie, Cherry r 

* I declare ! I believe you have gone and consented, after all 
that bravado !' 

* I left it to Lance. Don*t be furious, Cherry ; the boy has had 
more loneliness than is good for him since Dick Graeme has been 
in London, and as he has his own notions about companionship, I 
was not sure that he might not catch at it' 

* I have a better opinion of Lance.* 

' And ju«5tly. But what he wants to do is to leave the old house 
to Madame, and betake himself to Mrs. Froggatt He says — truly 
enough — ^that every evening he has free of his choir-practice, 
penny readings, and all the rest of it, he should go out to look her 
up, and that this would simpHfy the matter, and nothing would do 
the poor old lady so much good as seeing him.* 

' That's true j but to be going out there at all times, and in all 
weathers !' 

* That is nuts to him ! Don't you know he has got a velocipede 
fever ? He has set up a thing that he calls Plato.' 

' Un play toe, I should have thought' 

* It is Plato, because Mrs. Harewood announced that he and 
Bill had come all the way to Minsterham, each upon his own 
philosopher.' 

* I declare they make up things for that poor woman,' 

^ Or she makes them on purpose for their diversion ; but at any 
rate, Plato is lord of the ascendant just now, and demands 
exercise as if he were flesh and blood. I own I was glad to see 
the boy in a craze again.' 

* And letting Pur alone. It was very droll that the passion for 
making that diurnal instead of weekly, set in with him just at the 
same age that it did with you.' 



Chap. 
XXXIX. 



410 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXIX. 



*• Yes. I am much obliged to Alda for nipping my plans in the 
bud/ 

* The dignified weekly purr is not to change into a little petulant 
daily mew !* 

^ No. It was a manifestation of restlessness, like his wanting 
new stops for his organ, or being annoyed when there is a murmur 
against over-elaborate music. I am afraid the fact is that he has 
outgrown the whole concern, Cherry 1' 

* You never did!' 

^ That's nothing to the purpose. He has done all he can do 
with his present means, and no doubt he is thrown away down 
there.' 

* He never says so. And it is quite hard to get him here.' 

* I wish I had not consented to leaving him there. That boyish 
coolness and audacity that used to rush into all kinds of society 
are quite gone, and there is no persuading him that he is not in a 
false position among our neighbours.' 

* He gets more into society at Bexley than ever you did.* 

*0h yes, he has quite made his place there; but there's no 
denying that he has been left behind ; and though he says not a 
word, there's no doubt that since he went up to Oxford he has felt 
it a good deal more. Well, in a couple of years at latest, the 
Rectory affair will be settled ; and if I can get Blackstone Gulley 
into my own hands, I may be able to set him free.' 

Lance had been to take a musical degree, and had spent a week 
with William Harewood at Christ Church ; and it might be true 
that the vague spirit of enterprise for which Bexley afforded so 
little scope had become remarkable since that time. However, no 
more was heard of it during the preparations for installing the 
bride in the new home. Robina came for the first fortnight of her 
holidays to take her leave of the old rooms, and help in the 
removal of his belongings to Marshlands, where the arrangement 
was as great a pleasure as poor Mrs. Froggatt was capable of 
receiving. Moreover, Robina assisted in another great change. 
Miss Pearson had — ^by Felix's management in conjunction with 
some others interested in middle-class education — been enabled to 
retire ; the house and good-will of the establishment being made 
over to the governing body of Miss Fulmort*s school Two ladies 



FOUR YEARS. 



4" 



were provided from thence, who undertook to make a home both 
for young teachers and daily governesses, and were likely to raise 
the standard in Bexley. They were old friends of Robina, and 
she did much to settle them in, and pave their way. After this 
Robina went to Minsterham for one of the brief visits that were 
never satisfactory, for Grace Harewood had made a foolish 
marriage in the town, and Lucy did not improve, but became 
louder and more daring, her native cleverness only making her 
more unrefined and less simple than her mother. The Librarian 
never wondered that his son soon escaped to his pupils at 
Penbeacon, and the Vale Leston neighbourhood. 

Before Robina had been many days at home, one Saturday 
forenoon when she was undergoing Cherry's third attempt to 
satisfy unreasonable Will with her portrait, while assisting Stella's 
German, Angela rushed in — * One to make ready, two to prepare 
— one, two, three, if not four swells — ^not away, but here — Ham- 
monds, et cetera,' 

* Here ? Not imminent ? Lady Hammond always sends notice.' 

* Imminent ? They are prancing up the drive ! Only I cut 
across in " Miss UUin" to give warning. Shall I administer any 
orders to the dinner. Cherry, before I make myself scarce ?' 

* No, thank you, there is quite enough. Just take my painting- 
apron, that's all,' said Cherry, as coolly as Lady de la Poer would 
have heard tidings of such an inroad; but when Amelia an- 
nounced, * Sir Vesey and Lady Hammond in the drawing-room- 
and two more ladies, Ma'am — shall I lay the table for them ?' she 
quietly answered, * Yes, I suppose so. — Stella my dear, will you 
see if there is fruit enough in ?' And Stella stayed behind, while 
Cherry descended, aided by Robina's arm. 

Felix was already in presence, and the moment the two sisters 
appeared, a slight, brown, hazel-eyed girl in mourning exclaimed, 
* O Miss Underwood, this is just what I hoped !* and eagerly 
kissed her, while Lady Hammond introduced * Lady Caergwent 
and * Mrs. Umfraville,' the latter a peculiarly sweet-looking elderly 
lady in widow's dress. There were apologies for this sudden 
descent, telling that, on hearing how near Vale Leston was* 
Lady Caergwent had been so eager to see the Priory, that she 
had wiought with Sir Vesey, and prevailed. 



Chap. 
XXXIX. 



413 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXIX. 



Yet she did not seem to be profiting by the opportunity, for she 
merely sat by Robina, looking, thought Cheny, neither like a 
Countess nor a woman of twenty-three, but much more like a girl 
of eighteen — ^petrified, all save her great eyes, by shyness ; and 
Felix regarded her precedence as not only unnatural but unlucky, 
with so unconversible a subject, when he had to give her his arm, 
and seat her at his right hand for the mid-day meal. Be it 
observed, that the veal stewed with asparagus, and the pie that 
was to be cold for the morrow, as fully justified Cherry's calmness, 
as did the pile of strawberries and glasses of preserves her trust in 
Stella's handiwork. 

Clement came in late and astonished, and with a very hazy idea 
who the strangers were, just as Sir Vesey was saying, * Now, Lady 
Caergwent, Mr. Underwood will be able to answer your question.' 

She coloured a Uttle, and rather hastily asked whether there 
were any tradition of French architects having been employed in 
the church, for she had been struck with the foreign air of the 
tracery of the south window. Not a little surprised, Felix soon 
found himself in the midst of an architectural discussion, which 
taxed all his knowledge on the matter, and stirred Clement on the 
other side into the ecclesiastical aspect of the question ; and all 
three fell into an eager talk, when suddenly there was a general 
lull, and the young lady's voice was heard saying, * There is no 
heart or beauty in what is not symboli — * and there she came to a 
full stop, and looked at Mrs. Umfraville with a start of embaiiass- 
ment, requited. 

Appreciation of their church was no slight merit with any of 
the Underwoods ; and in the lionizing that ensued, the guest had 
eyes and tongue full of architecture, romance, and history, even 
spying and identifying a heraldic badge that supplied a missing 
link in the history of the building. Angela thought it flagrant 
pedantry j but Clement was so struck with her keen interest in all 
his arrangements, and her real reverence, that he unlocked the 
grille of the chancel, offered her to try the tone of his organ, and 
in spite of her total ignorance on that head, he asked if ^ >iiss 
Umfraville ' would not like to see the choice needlework fiwm St. 
Faith's in the chest in his vestry. There she had no lack of ideas; 
she examined and asked questions evidently with practical viewfl^ 



FOUR YEARS. 



413 



and could be hardly got away td continue the tour, when she 
again satisfied him (and more) by indignation on behalf of the 
monks — ^not sentimental, but evidentiy straight out of Dean 
Hook's version of the dissolution of the abbeys ; and yet there 
was a quaintness and originality in the way she put it, that amused 
Felix greatly. 

In the painting-room an entreaty was preferred to see Miss 
Underwood's drawings, which were indeed more worth looking at 
than when Lord de Vigny had stirred her up. She always had at 
least one real work in hand, and a good many studies. She 
was finishing a water-colour of the scene in The Lord of the 
Isles, when Ronald's betrothal ring falls at the feet of Isabel 
Bruce in the convent. 

Lady Caergwent stood before this as if it touched some respon- 
sive chord; but her aunt was busy with the portraits. Geral- 
dine's emulation had been fired by the cluster of miniatures in the 
drawing-room, and she had undertaken to commemorate the 
present family in the same style. She had produced very fair 
likenesses of Felix and of Wilmet, besides her half-finished crayon 
of Robina, and a still better one of Mr. Froggatt, which she was 
copying for his widow. Mrs. Umfiraville was delighted with 
these, and wished she could get an3rthing as good of her Kate, 
whom photography always represented as a fury, and portraiture 
as a doU ; but by this time Lady Caergwent had got Robina in 
the recess of a window, asking, * Are you still at Repworth ?* 

* Oh yes.' 

* And how are they all ?* 

*• Quite well, except that Lady Susan does not get over the 
remains of measles.' 

* Poor littie Susie ! What a monkey she was ! but oh, I want 
to hear about Gracie, and if she is more eager than ever.' 

* She is very much sobered and subdued by reality.' 

* And whafs he? I always thought Grace would marry a great 
block, and ripple and splash round him.' 

*' No, he is a littie brisk satirical man, who laughs at her when 
she gushes.' 

* What chance is there for them?' 

* Not till he gets preferment' 



Chap. 
XXXIX. 



♦u 



FHR PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXIX, 



* How tiresome I Ah ! I forgot ! Is not Mr. Harewood here?' 

* At Penbeacon, but he comes here every Sunday. He knows 
Mr. Pembertonvery well.' 

* Poor Gracie ! Lady de la Poer wrote to Aunt Emily that 
she thought it well that her steadiness should be tested ; but it 
must have been hard to see Addie go oflf with flying colours. 
How does Addie get on as a chieftainess ?* 

* I had a letter from Gracie this morning. Do you like to 
see it?* 

* Is she there? Do tell me how to say the name. I see there 
must be a hideous roll in the bottom of one's throat' 

Robina gurgled. * That was allowed to pass for it when we had 
a lesson in pronunciation on pain of not being allowed to be 
bridesmaids.' 

* Not a creature have I seen to tell me about the wedding.' 

* Kate, my dear,' said Lady Hammond. * No, you need not 
look so blank ; that is, if Robina will kindly let us take her home 
with us. Her brother and sister are so good as to come to dine 
and sleep on Monday.' 

For so it had been settled during the colloquy in the window, 
Sir Vesey and his lady being no doubt very glad to find a play- 
fellow for his younger visitor. 

Colonel Umfraville had died after a long illness, rather more 
than a year previously, and this was the first time his widow and 
niece had come from home. The Hammonds were very old 
friends, but Mrs. Umfraville still shrank from general society; so 
that when Felix and Cherry arrived they found themselves the 
only other guests besides the Harewoods, who had come earlier 
in the day. 

No sooner had Cherry been conducted to the room, which, as 
usual, she shared with her sister, than Robina said, *You are 
going to be asked to take Lady Caergwent's likeness,* 

* My dear, I am not the sun, to do it in a minute 1* 

* And make a Brigand's Bride of her. No, you are to have ha 
at the Priory.' 

* Are you gone crazy, Bobbie ?' 

* Be conformable, and you shall hear.' 

^ I'll hear, but I don't promise conformity * 



FOUR YEARS, 



415 



*Now listen. Nobody can do her fit to be seen; and Mrs. 
Umfraville wants a n?ce water-colour like Mrs. Welsh's, which was 
exhibited. I said I did not see how it could be managed ; and 
then she asked if she might not come to us for it; and Mrs. 
Umfraville let me know that she would be very glad, for she has 
to go on into Wales to some old maids, who would be horribly 
fussed if she brought Elate.' 

*Well, we are old maids and old bachelors to boot. Why 
should not we be horribly fussed by a live Countess running 
about the house ?* 

* Because she would be tame ; and because you have common 
sense.' 

* Qh, I thought you would say, because you were used to act 
keeper to the species I In herself she may be inolBfensive ; but 
what sort of a tail does she bring after her ?* 

* Six running footmen, eh ?' 

* Don't be saucy, Cock-robin. One grand maid would be bad 
enough, scaring Theodore, and upsetting Sibby. No, no, Rob 1 
leave countesses to those who can live as sich.' 

* You need alter nothing. You may do as Bear says you do — 
eat boiled pork and greens every day at one o'clock — and she'll 
like it ! She and her aunt always do dine early ; and as to her 
maid, she is a little Repworth thing, just promoted from waiting 
on us in the school-room. I'll answer for her. The very 
attraction is, that you'll leave her in peace, and not beset her 
with dinner-parties.' 

* She doesn't keep a duenna, then ?' 

* Duenna i' 

* Well, heiresses in books always do. And in this case it seems 
to me that the article would be desirable.' 

* Oh, we settled all that ! Wilmet is equal to as many duennas 
as you like. She will come and do all the chaperoning.' 

' Do you mean that she has undertaken it ? Then I can only 
submit, provided the Squire does.' 

The Squire made a few wry faces, but consented, with all a 
man's superior philosophy towards domestic disorganizations of 
which he does not feel the brunt Besides, both he and Wilmet 
were proud of Cherry's talent, and the esteem in which Robina 



Chap. 
XXXIX. 



i6 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chap. 
XXXIX. 



was held ; and Mrs. Umfraville had been confidential with Wilmet, 
saying how glad she was to see her child willing to go among 
youth and brightness. The girl had, she said, never made young 
friends except the De la Pders, and her Wardour cousins, who 
had married, and gone out of reach. She had no suitable neigh- 
bours, and * circumstances ' had hindered her being much in 
London ; and loss of her father-like uncle had not so much taken 
away her spirits — for she was always bright — as given her a 
distaste to society. She hated entertaining people or seeing 
strangers ; cared for nothing but her aunt, her books, her walks, 
and her poor; was oppressed with the business of her property, 
and was altogether so studious and indefatigable at three-and- 
twenty, and so averse to gaieties, that her aunt feared she would 
never act up to her position, unless her habits of seclusion were 
broken, and had therefore forced herself to come on this journey 
with her. But there had been no real thaw till she heard of 
Vale Leston and met Robina. Wilmet was not a little gratified 
by hearing, at second-hand. Lady de la Poef s praise of the young 
governess as a valued friend; and it was plainly to her charge 
that the precious niece was committed. 

When the visit took place, the Countess was soon forgotten in 
the companion. At first, Felix was a little ceremonious, and she 
a little shy, watching the family party as if they were acting a 
play ; but as the strangeness wore off, she began by being diverted, 
though silent from long disuse of family chatter, and soon plunged 
in, with as droll and eager a tongue as ever wagged 

Then Cherry found her face quite unlike her first reading of it, 
and had to begin all over again. It was altogether, as Bernard 
said, a jolly time. That young gentleman was, for the first time, 
smitten. His devotion to himself and cricket had never before 
been disturbed ; and he had reached his eighteertth year without 
regarding woman as intended for any purpose but to wait upon 
him. But bright eyes, merry smiles, genuine fun, and mayhap the 
rank that gratified his vanity, began to avenge the wrongs of the 
sex; and Bernard was enslaved enough to amuse and edify his 
brothers and sisters — ^all the more, that the simple-hearted* 
Countess was perfectly unconscious, thought herself immeasurably 
older than the great, handsome, idle fellow — half an inch taller 



FOUR YEARS. 



417 



than the Vicar, by-the-by — stood on no conventionalities with 
him, and when released by her task-mistress, would run down-stairs 
to call him, nothing loth, to give her a row on the river, to blow 
away the fumes of the painting-room. Quite unawares, she 
effected a victory for Felix ; for when she assumed that since he 
was going to Oxford it must be to Keble College, and he found 
that she regarded it as very stupid to do anything else, he entirely 
forgot all his former objections, and was only too happy to 
gratify her. 

Even Clement expanded more than usual, for he had never met 
a more congenial spirit. Lady Caergwent's enthusiasm went 
much deeper than externals, for she was well read in Church 
history, and a practical worker in the present, being at Caergwent, 
that teacher, register office, manager, letter-writer, &c., which the 
lady-of-all-work to a parish must become, whether clerical or 
otherwise. * There's Tina boring her with shop !' would Bernard 
mutter, in a paroxysm of jealousy. 

* Quite the reverse,' said Angela. * She is the most thorough 
Goody I ever came across, not excepting Clan Hepburn !' 

It was not with any design of captivating s)rmpathy, but because 
Lady Caergwent had an unusual number of interests, and was 
intensely eager about each in turn. Landlord cares were discussed 
with Felix, as Church matters were with his brother. She was too 
headlong and unguarded not often to say ridiculous things, but 
nobody more enjoyed having them caught up and laughed at ; and 
when Felix had made gentle fun of some of her impetuous political 
economy, she looked up to him like an elder brother. With the 
sisters she was soon as much at ease as in the De la Joer school- 
room, making Robina her friend par excellence^ but apparently 
observing Angela, who, having no one to flirt with, was at her best, 
and was drawn out by the * Goody ' sympathies. 

* Robina,' said Lady Caergwent, entering her friend's room at 
that confidential moment, near ii.op. m., *you know all about 
everything !' 

To which monstrous assertion Robina assented. 
The next question was equally abrupt *Do you know that 
Angela wants to go into a Sisterhood?' 

* Oh 1 I thought that had gone oC 
vou II. 



Chap. 
XXX IX. 



ft, 

I"' 



2 E 



4i8 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XXXIX. 



* No, indeed ! It is to be a very strict nursing one ; * and as 
Robina smiled a little, * I cannot but believe I know the cause.' 

* It always used to come on when she was going to be particularly 
naughty.' 

* Robina, I can't understand it in you ; you do not seem like an 
elder sister to pooh-pooh all higher aspirations in a younger one, 
or to have no sympathy with deeper feelings.* 

* You will only think the worse of me for not believing in the 
deeper feelings,' said Robina ; * but indeed, I think I know Angela.' 

* How odd it is ! Then it is true that elder sisters never can do 
younger ones justice !' said Lady Caergwent, looking at Robin in 
a meditative kind of philosophical way, which made her laugh, and 
say, * There, it is no use to say anything !' 

* I would not, but that I am going away ; and I want you to 
promise that if — if you see that any scruples hinder her happiness, 
you would tell her how entire all that is at an end.' 

* If I do,' said Robina, much pitying, but much diverted at the 
romance that could ascribe either forbearance or self-sacrifice to 
Angela. 

* He comes here, doesn't he ?' 

* He came down last summer, but I saw no symptoms of anything 
— to signify,' added her conscience ; * in fact, I think he prefers 
Cherry.' 

* I hope,' said poor Lady Caergwent musingly, * that some day 
or other, when we are all old women ; Gracie, Addie, and I, may 
meet and smile at all that is gone and past I can laugh now, 
even while I am sorry, to recollect my absurd presumption. I had 
the influence, delusion on my brain, and believed mine the only 
right way, and dragooned every one about wasting time. I am 
glad he asserted himself! What he has done since shewed how 
nonsensical I was. Does he like his work ? no one teUs me.' 

* You know what his chief said' 
*0h! what?' 

* To Mr. Welsh, the member for Ewmouth, so it is quite impartial 
— ^that he never had a better fellow to. stick to his work, or more 
clear-headed. Yes 1 and we all think — here, I mean, as well as at 
Repworth — that he is so much more of a man. Felix really talks in 
c^.rnest to him now, and so does his father. His nonsense is gone.' 



FOUR YEARS, 



419 



* Oh, that's a pity/ 

* I don't mean sensible nonsense, but you know his old absurd way.* 
' Yes, of course that unlucky state of things was as bad as possible 

for him. He would have been the poorest stick in creation not to 
have broken loose. I have had a life-long lesson, and I hope it 
will save me from getting hard and narrowly resolute, as authority 
makes single women.' 

* You could hardly do that with Mrs. Umfraville before you.' 

* Hardly ! dear Aunt Emily !' cheered and cheering all the 
while ; * as long as I have her, nothing can go very wrong with me. 
I never thought I could have enjoyed myself again away from her, 
as I have done here.' 

* I am so glad, dear Kate !' 

' If I could get any of you to Caergwent ! But people are alwa3rs 
going to be married.' 

On the Sunday, William Haiewood, now a deacon, descended 
from Penbeacon to church and dinner, with a train of five pupils, 
bringing intelligence that the senior, who had been at the original 
pic-nic, and was at Penbeacon for the last time, must leave it at 
the end of the week, and entreated that he might not miss the 
entertainment. 

There was a general acclamation. Lady Caergwent was wound 
up to enterprise pitch, and, as an ardent botanist, was delighted 
with the flora she was told to expect there j and Cherry only bar- 
gained for time to make the pies and send for Lance. It was the 
only home-gaiety he would willingly partake, because they always 
kept it to themselves instead of making it serve as civility to the 
neighbourhood. 

Lady Caergwent, after having much appreciated the Sunday- 
school in the loose boxes, looked on, rather bewildered, at Angela's 
* carrj'ing on ' with four pupils at once, chattering, laughing, defying, 
and being defied, in a manner, which, if it dissembled grief, was 
wonderfully successful. To these was added young Charles Audley, 
coming up the river in his skiff, for Evensong. 

* Ha, Charlie, you're in luck ! Hurrah for Penbeacon !' 

* Are you going ? Then the Kittiwake sha'n't sail ! I've missed 
your spread every time through that everlasting tub, and the Skipper 
shall hear reason 1' 

2 £ 2 



Chap* 
XXXIX. 



420 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. | 
XXXIX. ! 



* Oh, I thought nobody asked you ! * 

* As if your sighs had not been wafted on the breeze !' 

* Puflfs to swell the sails and transport bad rubbish !' 

* What day is it to be ?* 

* Wednesday ; but youVe got no ticket We are desperately 
select' 

* By-the-by, youVe got a regular tip-topper, haven't you? 
Old Patakake invited me under his breath to gaze at the Countess 
of Caergwent in Mr. Underwood's carriage.' 

* Ay I but we are bound by awful pledges not to regale the 
country bumpkins with the sight of a real countess at feeding-time.' 

* Then I shall repair to Harewood for an invite. Isn't this the 
girl that was booked for young De la Poer ?' 

* Most inefifable bosh ! It went the round of the papers, and 
my brother sent it to Robin, who contradicted it flat She'll never 
marry anybody, and he'll never marry her !' 

* Indeed ! Why so ? ' 

* He was wanted to. Isn't that enough ? ' 

* He was wanted to ? ' 

* Yes, poor wretch ! till he cut and ran for dear life, and never 
thought himself safe till he had got to the top of Penbeacon. 
That's the way you swells doos it' 

* I'm no swell, thank goodness ! ' said Charlie, chucking a stone 
into the river. 

* No swell ! A swell/«^ at least ! I always regarded you as a 
sacred personage, condemned to noblesse oblige^ and all that !' 

* Catch it obliging me to what I don't choose ! ' 

Such was the conversation, whose sounds would have amazed 
Lady Caergwent, even more than did the sight : not that there was 
intentional hypocrisy in Angela — she never acted a part, but 
shewed herself exactly as she felt at the moment, * only more so,' 
and the moments were so little in harmony. 

Another person who was scandalized was Wilmet, who, in her 
capacity of chaperon, was spending the evening at the Priory: 
and when she found that this addition to the party was viewed as ? 
matter of course, sought Felix out, and declared that she would 
have nothing to do with the aflfair unless it were made quite clear 
that Captain Audley was aware of the extent of the intimacy. 



FOUR YEARS. 



421 



Felix himself had once or twice doubted whether some steps 
ought not to be taken, for the eldest brother having died and left 
only daughters, Charlie was heir to the baronetcy, and old Sir 
Robert and his wife had a reputation for haughtiness and exclu- 
siveness. Their grandson never went near them if he could help 
it, only enduring a duty-visit by the help of shooting ; and their son 
was even more slack, having, in fact, never entirely forgiven their 
coldness to his young and passionately-loved wife. If there should 
be anything more than fun and froth in all the quips and cranks, 
jokes and pranks, among the young people, there would assuredly 
be an explosion, and silence on his part might justly be deemed 
unfair encouragement Maybe, his was an over-scrupulous mind, 
for he was already uneasy enough to make the strength of Wilmefs 
remonstrance unnecessary. The fact of another eye than his own 
having remarked it, was enough for him ; and although he gave 
Mrs. Harewood little satisfaction at the moment, the next forenoon 
he jumped off his horse at her door, interrupting her unprosperous 
attempts at making her eldest son remember six times four — 

' Five minutes, Mettie I — ^Yes, Kester, you shall ride round to 
the stables if you be off now. — I've asked Captain Audley to 
Penbeacon.' 

* You don't mean that he will come ? ' 

' Far from it ; but it was the easiest way of suggesting that I 
wished him to see for himsel£' 
' With what effect ? ' 

' That of being civilly shewn that I was a fool for my pains.' 
' Do you mean that he does not care ? ' 

* Not a straw. I can't make out whether he thinks the Somer- 
ville-Audley blood beyond precaution, or whether it is all indolence,, 
and dislike to hinder the boy's amusement' 

* Did you speak plain enough for him to understand ? ' 

* Oh yes, he understood — very nearly laughed at me, and changed 
the subject So now I must leave it j I can't forbid the young 
feUow the house, and a warning to Angel would only precipitate it' 

* It is hard that one's sisters should be sacrificed.' 

* My dear, everybody is not as much au grand serieux at that 
age as we used to be. The Skipper, as Charlie respectfully calls 
him, may be right, and there may be nothing in it ; or if there 



Chap. 
XXXIX. 



421 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE. 



Chah. 
XXXIX. 



Chap. 
XL. 



should be, that Angel of ours has quite strength and spirit enough 
for a struggle, and maybe a disappointment The truth is,' coming 
nearer, and looking mysterious, ' we know nothing at all about it, 
and had best let it alone/ 

Wilmet's face of expectation melted into pardon for being teazed ; 
but Kester, shouting, * Uncle Felix, come ! ' put an end to the 
conference, rather an odd one to be taking place at the moment 
when the Countess was beguiling the constraint of sitting, by 
dreaming over Isabel Bruce, and the magnanimity of rescuing the 
intended recluse by — Alas ! she had never had a ring to throw 
at her feet — only tiiat whisper which Robina seemed unwilling to 
convey. 



CHAPTER XL. 

A K T STROPHE. 

^ When shall we three meet again, 
In thunder, lightning, or in rain ?' 



Shakespeare, 



Lance did not appear on the evening before the picnic, and 
announced by letter, the next morning, that he could not getaway, 
Felix regretted not having as usual changed places with him, but 
could hardly have absented himself from such a guest as the present 
without discourtesy ; and Cherry, looking at the blunt brevity of the 
postal-card, feared that the high-sounding title of their new friend was 
adding to Lance's almost morbid •sense of being in a different sphere 
from their surroundings. However, she had little time to diink; 
for their only other guest, Gertrude May, had come by long promise 
to sleep at the Priory the night before; and the party were 
collecting in the haU, while the waggonet, a farm companion being 
allotted to the chestnut for the nonce, the Harewood phaeton, and 
Master Ratton with his basket, were marshalled at the door. 

* The Vicar says there is going to be a thunder-storm,' said Lady 
Caergwent, in rather a solemn voice. 

* The Vicar always has a thunder-storm coming whenever it isn't 
a fall of snow,* returned Bernard 



A K T STROPHE. 



423 



* Hush, Bear I Kate won*t have the Vicar's name taken in vain/ 
laughed Angela. 

* Angela ! Is not that expression a rebuke to itself? whispered 
Cherry. 

* There's not a symptom of a cloud/ added Gertrude, * but the 
heat is overpowering.' 

* Yes !' said Cherry. * Lance could hardly have gone in such 
scorching as this.' 

' We shall find mountain-air at the top,' said Robina, * when once 
we can get there.' 

* And the storms there are magnificent,' added the deep voice of 
Clement, as he strode out in broad hat and alpaca coat, 
pausing to put his despatches into the letter-box, and inspect the 
barometer. 

* Let that poor thing alone, Clem,' called out his eldest brother. 
We mean to enjoy ourselves.' 

'Are you affected by thunder?* the Vicar asked, seeing that 
Lady Caergwent did not look very happy. 

* Not affected really, but I don't like it at night, or out of doors/ 
she answered ; but I don't think there can be a storm to-day.' 

'Never saw weather less like it,* added Bernard decisively, 
gazing up at the sky, as if to dare it to thunder. ' Hollo, Charlie I 
what have you annexed !' 

For Charles Audley appeared walking up from the river, very 
hot, and holding upon its back, like a baby, a huge blue lobster, 
which impotently flapped its fringed tail, brandished its claws, and 
waved its whiskers. 

* What do you propose to do with that marine monster ?* asked 
Cherry. 

* Eat him, to be sure ! He's my contribution. I bought him of 
old Jenny as I came up. Take care, Kester I he'll grab you as 
tight as the Mayor of Plymouth. Have you a basket, or anything 
to put him in ?* 

* He's alive,' said Cherry, recoiling. 

* Of course. In civilian costume, you see. Of course the natives 
up there have some sort of kettle. I've done dozens of lobsters 
in the yacht' 

* What fun !* cried Angela. ' He shall go on the driving-box, to 



Chap. 
XL. 



424 



THE PILLARS OF THE HOUSE, 



Chap. 
XL. 



be made lobster-salad of. Get a basket ; Kester, let his whiskers 
alone — ^ridiculous creature !* 

*Ohr 

It was a soft little breath, but Charles turned round. * You'ie 
notafraidof him, Stella! See! his claw is tied. Don't you like it?' 

* I'm not afraid ; but I don't like it' 

* Like Kate's thunder-storm,' laughed Angela ; ' not afraid, but 
she doesn't like it' 

Stella stood her ground : ' I don't like keeping the poor thing in 
misery.' 

* Nay !' said Angela. ' Why don't you send that cruel boy to 
restore it to its native element P' 

' That would be nonsense,' steadily said Stella ; ' but I think it 
would be kinder to have it killed at once, than to jolt it all the 
way up there.' 

*Now, Charlie, it is absurd to yield to that child's tender- 
heartedness. She is a perfect Brahmin, and can't believe that 
those cold-blooded fishy things don't feel.' 

* I believe the sentiment is general,' said Lady Caergwent, eagerly 
but nervously : * though I had not the resolution of Princess Fair- 
Star,' she added, aside to Cherry ; who rejoined, * Not being sure 
whether it might not be the native custom to consume raw lobsters. 
Oh ! here come Wilmet and Eddy ; so let us pack. Lady Caergwent, 
do you prefer dignity or landscape ? for that perch by my brother 
is the best for the latter.' 

* Landskip, to be sure. You delightful person !' cried her Lady- 
ship, springing to the driving-seat. 

' May I-invite you, not to our skip, but our springs. Cherry?' asked 
the Major. 

* No, thank you,' said Cherry, who had seen a pair of wistful 
eyes lose one spark at the Countess's ascent, and another at this 
invitation. * My springs rival yours ; and Gertrude and